The delicate balance between fidelity to the source story and invention has long been a hallmark of the Courtyard pantomime.
This year’s Cinderella lives up to expectation and fortifies that tradition. Firmly rooted in its Herefordshire home, the show is finely tuned to today’s zeitgeist – ecologically aware and suffused with a love of the natural world – without being preachy or portentous.
Author Lyndsey Maples and director Estelle van Warmelo present us an otter-loving, hedgehog-nurturing Cinderella, an endearingly geeky, galaxy-gazing Prince and an engaging ‘green’ fairy godmother. This is a production determined to bin all the clichés; it springs revealing surprises while paradoxically staying close to the beating heart of the fairytale.
The key elements of a successful pantomime are beautifully blended. Mark Walters’ set and costume designs shimmer ravishingly, the choreography by Dane Bates has pulsating panache, and Henry Burnett’s superb score, realised by perfectly pitched singing, gives this “eco panto” a truly operatic dimension.
The acting is strong throughout. Isabella Rubin’s spirited, radiant Cinderella captivates Rory McCollum’s self-deprecating Prince. As the Ugly Sisters, James Witt and Ellis Kerkhoven make two outrageously shameless dames and Mikey Wooster is a delightful troubadour Buttons, but the pantomime’s strongest turn is Melanie Stevens’ malevolent stepmother – she is hissably unmissable.