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Cinderella review at Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham – ‘a dazzling array of circus trickery’

Tweedy and Ruth Betteridge in Cinderella at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham. Photo: Farrows Creative Tweedy and Ruth Betteridge in Cinderella at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham. Photo: Farrows Creative

Cinderella remains easily the most popular pantomime, accounting for just shy of a quarter of those out there on the professional circuit. The Everyman at Cheltenham, however, has freshened up the narrative with a couple of ambitious gender changes.

The ugly sisters are no longer played in drag, although they remain as cruel as ever transmogrified into two glamorous actress, Wendy Abrahams and Kerry Whiteside.

Buttons is out of the ordinary, too, in the hilarious hands of regular circus clown Tweedy, whose considerable experience on the big top circuit makes him ideally suited to the audience participation so essential to a successful pantomime. Tweedy’s gimmick is that he turns up not realising he is expected to play Buttons, and this allows for a dazzling array of circus tricky as well as the more familiar pantomime set pieces.

The restyling is helped by the return of two experienced players, with William Elliott as dame, amply filling the role of Baroness Hardup, and Lynette Clarke as a flying Fairy Godmother. On the more time-honoured side, Ruth Betteridge (Cinderella), Tara Dixon (Prince Charming) and Frankie Jones (Dandini) handle the big production numbers with aplomb.

It is just possible to have too much of a good thing, though, for the second half is at least 15 minutes too long.

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Circus clown Tweedy’s Buttons-with-a-difference is the outstanding performance in this sparkling Cheltenham pantomime