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Cinderella at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea – ‘bright and cheery’

Brian Conley and Lesley Joseph in Cinderella at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend. Photo: Sheila Burnett Brian Conley and Lesley Joseph in Cinderella at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend. Photo: Sheila Burnett
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It’s a little disconcerting to hear so many cougar gags in the opening of a family pantomime but it’s probably what the audience still expects of Lesley Joseph since her role on Birds of a Feather. The plot soon settles as Mathew Goodgame’s Prince Charming expresses his desire to settle down and all is as it should be until the arrival of Brian Conley as Buttons.

Co-author of this Qdos pantomime, the irrepressible Conley is one of the most random comedy actors gracing the Christmas stage. A regular as Buttons and judging by Joseph’s asides often unpredictable, Conley manages to steal the show without distorting its primary focus. His comic style – part-showman, part-grouch – is catnip to a light entertainment audience yet this pantomime veteran knows instinctively when to rein it in. As a result, Buttons’ resolution with Lauren Hall’s beguiling Cinderella is genuinely heart-warming.

In the face of such overwhelming scene-stealing, David Robbins and Martin Ramsdin do a grand job as the Ugly Sisters, pitching their petulance at just the right level. These two are sporting some of the most inventive, finely structured costumes and millinery on stage this year.

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Bright and cheery adaptation bolstered by an irrepressible star turn