The opening of Oldham Coliseum’s Cinderella signals the start of pantomime season.
To begin with Cinderella (Shorelle Hepkin) seems to be stepping out of a beautifully illustrated picture-book. But the aesthetic tranquillity is soon shattered by the arrival of the ugly Squeezepocket sisters (Fine Time Fontayne and Simeon Truby) and their mother, Vyella (Sue Devaney).
Devaney plays the wicked stepmother with aplomb, her voice and facial expressions flitting gloriously from sickly sweet to cruel contempt. Nisha Anil also impresses in her dual roles as Fairy Godmother and Dandini, becoming an earnest, sincere counterpoint to Devaney’s cool villainness.
The script (penned by Fontayne and director Kevin Shaw) works hard to offer something for everyone, and for the most part it succeeds – subtle cultural and topical references (“Uber for Vyella!”) give way to child-friendly jokes about flatulence and flossing. There are a few moments, however, where the innuendo becomes a little too crude for comfort.
Although the cast initially appear constrained by some convoluted digressions from the traditional plot, they become more spritely after the interval as narrative exposition is ditched in favour of more familiar pantomime set-pieces. There are some impressive visual gags and clever choreography, particularly when characters grapple for the glass slipper in slow-motion.
Arguably the most emotionally affecting moments of the show are found in the musical numbers (directed by Dave Bintley), offering a break from the pervasive silliness and some welcome light and shade.