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Published Monday 3 December 2012 at 13:23 by Julie Watterston

Obscure traditionality is a new paradigm for the Corn Exchange panto this year. While convention converges with creativity in the hope of building on last year’s success, the miscellany takes the invention of new characters a tad too far.

It would seem that the creative team has been given, or chosen, their actors first and the script has then been written around them rather than the actors having to fit into a pre-determined draft. So, we have Natalia Campbell as the Baroness Hardup in a tenuous storyline which sees her returning to Hardup Hall when she hears the Baron is dead and Billy Bumpkin - aka local panto celebrity Matthew Grace who recreates his traditional character from previous Christmas shows. FG (or Fairy Godmother) is a jolly hockey sticks female aviator played by Bea Holland and Buttons is a mouse (cutely played by Amy Murray) so I defy any child not to be confused if they were expecting the time-honoured tale of Cinderella.

That said, there is enough colour and energy to pull the show along with eager choreography from Holly Hughes and funky chart-topping tunes arranged by musical director, Mark Aspinall. Helena Sowe is an affable Cinderella, Stephen Kirwan is the royally posh Prince Charming and Jack Beatson is the Footman. Two cast members though have surely found their true vocation now - Richard Foster-King and Joseph Wicks are truly excellent as the Ugly Sisters.

Production information

Corn Exchange, Newbury, December 1-January 6

Phil Willmott
Corn Exchange/Hiss and Boo
Bea Holland, Amy Murray, Helena Sowe, Matthew Grace, Jack Beatson, Natalia Campbell, Richard Foster-King, Joseph Wicks, Stephen Kirwan
Running time:
2hr 25mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014