Cambridge Arts Theatre’s Cinderella is a delightful blend of old fashioned storybook charm with a contemporary ecological message and some very modern day ugly sisters. Written by Al Lockhart-Morley, this is a big-hearted Christmas show designed with children most in mind and served up entirely without cynicism – although there is a healthy dose of innuendo for any adults watching.
Cinderella (Charlotte Kennedy) is the hard-working daughter of Baron Hardup, owner of Hardup Hall, a crumbling manor house set to be demolished when Prince Charming sells off the local woodland to make way for a housing estate. Cinders’ initial plea to the thigh-slapping and uber-jolly Prince Charming (Emily Squibb) is to conserve the wood and save the animals, not for everlasting love.
Ex-ballet dancer Wayne Sleep makes an enjoyable return to the Cambridge panto, this time as Ugly Sister Melania, alongside Matt Crosby’s Ivanka. They make a convincing double act, with their bullying of poor Cinderella getting progressively more mean spirited. They’re also the beneficiaries of some excellent pantomime dame costuming (Phoebe Chambers and Sue Simmerling), especially their final appearance as, respectively, a chandelier and a disco ball.
There’s similarly strong work put in by Isaac Stanmore as the unlucky-in-love Buttons, destined to only ever be adored “as a brother”. And the central love match between Squibb and Kennedy is very cutely portrayed. It’s an old-fashioned and slightly more gentle take on pantomime than most, and it results in a warm-spirited and understatedly political bit of Christmastime entertainment.