A glittering carriage pulled by a magnificent flying horse forms the centrepiece of this expertly and lovingly produced Cinderella. The animatronic surprise means the interval curtain comes down to a chorus of “aaahs!”, and it leaves even the most romance-averse children in the audience excited for Prince Charming’s ball to begin.
But what gives the annual Eastbourne pantomime its heart, as ever, is a happy, hardworking and creatively integrated company led not by air-dropped ‘celebrities’ but by local comedian Tucker and resident dame Martyn Knight.
The pair’s rapport survives Knight being cast, this year, as an ugly sister – who arrives joyriding in a shopping trolley and dressed as the Schweppes to her sister’s Gordon’s gin. The comedy duo are reunited when Tucker takes time out from playing Buttons to cameo as a Mario-style plumber. In a very silly bathroom scene, he ends up helping the ugly sisters prepare for the ball by shaving their legs with a lawnmower.
Writer and director Chris Jordan strikes a skilful balance between child and adult humour, story and skits, old school gags and 2018 trends. The Greatest Showman and Baby Shark are in there, while impressionist Hilary O’Neil’s fairy godmother brings a touch of Strictly Come Dancing to the ball.
But where some pantos grasp desperately for contemporaneity, Eastbourne’s is securely grounded in tradition. Vibey choreography, twinkly lighting, well-managed audience interaction and a live band that is regularly enlisted in the comedy all help to ensure its magic doesn’t fade.