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Cinderella at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham, review – ‘brave but lacking a design concept’

Bradley Walsh and Paul O'Grady in Cinderella at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham. Photo: James Watkins Photography Bradley Walsh and Paul O'Grady in Cinderella at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham. Photo: James Watkins Photography
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With a seating capacity of nearly 5,000 it’s undeniable that Arenapanto’s production of Cinderella is the largest in the UK. The problem is that despite the best of intentions producer and writer Jon Conway has not created a production big enough or imaginative enough to fill that space.

Headliners Paul O’Grady as the Fairy Godfather and the irrepressible Bradley Walsh as Buttons pull out all the stops to create a genuine pantomime atmosphere but those intimate moments across the fourth wall are lost in the arena. With the rapport between cast and audience in jeopardy the show could be saved by spectacle, but despite dances from Bollywood Dreams and various circus acts it still struggles.

Sarah St George’s lively choreography is spread too thinly across the vast stage and the set, a magnificent castle, is simply a surround for an enormous video screen pumping out dubious 3D effects. The transformation scene should be the defining moment of this story but here, it’s remarkably low-rent and the coach looks positively amateur.

On the plus side, the sound quality is extremely good and while the controversial recorded soundtrack is only mediocre, the balance and clarity is spot on. An arena pantomime may not be so unlikely an idea, but it will require a good deal more imagination than is demonstrated here.

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Verdict
Brave but fatally lacking a strong design concept or any fresh ideas beyond venue size
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