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Cinderella and the Beanstalk review at the Old Market, Hove – ‘heart, smarts and energy’

Dami Olukoya, Tom Gordon, and Adam Robertson in Cinderella and the Beanstalk at Old Market, Hove Dami Olukoya, Tom Gordon, and Adam Robertson in Cinderella and the Beanstalk at Old Market, Hove

Proving that there’s more to panto than celebrity casting and big budgets, Sleeping Trees’ Cinderella and the Beanstalk is small in scale but big on heart, smarts and energy.

It starts with a well-worn trope – “oh, we had this enormous show for all these actors, but no one is here so we’ll do it all ourselves” – but from that it spins gold.

Packed with references to just about every panto you can think of, it’s a fast-paced, anarchic romp. There are catchy songs and jokes aplenty, and though there is no shortage of silliness, the show is savvy and self-aware enough to appeal to adults, without ever resorting to the lazy cynicism of simply throwing out innuendoes in the expectation they’ll go over the kids’ heads.

None of this would work without a cast of enormous chemistry and charm. The original company is currently performing a new panto mashup in London but the new cast, playing multiple roles – sometimes in the same scene – are utterly engaging. Adam Robertson takes on the role of Cinderella after some audience cajoling and gives us a heroine to root for; Tom Gordon ‘s DIY-loving Prince is hilariously dim yet still manages to be Charming, and Dami Olukoya’s Rumpelstiltskin is a hiss-worthy villain with a scene-stealing song. As the hired musician dragged into the action, Shamira Turner is a deadpan delight.

The show is tightly directed by Tom Attenborough, making excellent use of a multitude of clever props, and the performers never pause for breath. The result is a joyful confection of a show it’s impossible not to fall for.

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A fresh, funny festive romp that both adults and children will enjoy