Before its extensive renovation, Fairfield Halls presented its pantomime in the proscenium-arched Ashcroft Theatre. It was an ambitious move upon reopening to switch it to the 1,800-seat Phoenix Concert Hall but, thanks in no small part to the design team, it’s a qualified success. An elaborate fixed setting is supplemented by high-tech video screens and Nina Dunn’s animated video designs deliver a host of colourful backdrops.
George Wood’s production is otherwise fairly run-of-the-mill, mixing aspirational romantic adventure with some unfortunately stale routines. In a big plus, Tim Vine is on top form as a family-friendly Buttons, creating groan-worthy puns at a rate of knots. The love story is provided by James Bisp as Prince Charming, his romantic soft-rock baritone complementing Grace Chapman’s soaring mezzo as an eternally optimistic Cinderella.
Ore Oduba’s popular appearance on Strictly Come Dancing in 2016 gives the presenter a great excuse to show off some dance moves as Dandini at the ball, while CBeebies’ Cat Sandion is effortlessly loveable as the Fairy Godmother.
The villains here are undoubtedly grotesque but there’s little fresh in Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron’s Tess and Claudia. On the whole, producer Imagine Theatre needs to devote as much attention to the storytelling as it does the design.