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Review: Clara, five, gives the thumbs-up as Cinderella finally goes to the ball at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds



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Pantomime is back at the Theatre Royal after a two-year absence in the shape of fairytale favourite Cinderella – and my five-year-old daughter loved it.

Back in September we were lucky enough to book the last three remaining front row seats to today's family gala performance. Little did we realise what a treat would be in store for us.

Clara last watched panto at the Theatre Royal back in 2018, aged a little over two. Then, during the first act of Sleeping Beauty her 'I want a banana' demands could be heard throughout the auditorium, while her later demands to go to bed meant we left 10 minutes into act two.

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (53514984)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (53514984)

There was no such problem today. From the moment the lights dimmed and the overture started she was clapping and jigging, with a beaming smile plastered across her face.

And you see, however much adults may enjoy this fantastic production over the festive period, really, panto is for children.

Some youngsters might only see pantomime and no other theatre during their childhood. If that is the case, then what better introduction to theatre is there than pantomime, where you are not only allowed to boo but encouraged to interact with the events on stage.

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (53514998)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (53514998)

Clara's loud 'Oh my goodness!' exclamations as ugly stepsisters Kylie and Miley farted and belched entertained many in the audience just as much as the on stage body burps themselves, while her screams during the 'makeover' scene – more on that later – almost had me crying with laughter.

This production of Cinderella is a triumph, benefitting from very strong performances, stunning vocals, effective staging and a witty and fast-paced book.

Becky Sanneh's Cinderella displays all the warmth and sweetness (plus a little sass) you could hope for, alongside a very appealing singing voice; Howie Michaels, as Buttons, may have a West Country accent for his Bury-based fruit and veg stall, but he's also the perfect foil to Cinders; Fairy Godmother Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah's charismatic performance of 'Listen' during the stunning transformation scene moved me to tears (not something I expected while watching panto); while Samuel Knight's Prince Roger and Felicity Houlbrooke (Miss Van Dini) delivered a belting rendition of 'Find Me Somebody to Love'.

But, as always, it is the panto 'villains' who get the juciest characters and funniest scenes.

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (53515004)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (53515004)

Grizelda Grizzle (Beth Tuckey) and hapless daughters Kylie (Chris Clarkson) and Miley (Craig Painting) of 'Sickworth House' were by far Clara's favourite part of the entire production.

Clara booed, she cheered, she laughed and she said, after the show: "They were so naughty and I loved it when they were farting and then sprayed us during the make-up bit."

Ah yes, the makeover scene. This saw a plastic sheet spread across the stage (a warning of things to come) before Buttons gave Kylie and Miley a pre-ball makeover including talcum powder and 'spray tan' (which was later sprayed into the audience, soaking some of us near the stage).

Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (53515001)
Cinderella at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds (53515001)

But it was all good fun. In fact, from start to finish Cinderella serves up a fantastic serving of festive fun full of everything you could wish for from a panto. There's only one problem – I'd like another portion! Looks like we might have to book again before the end of the run.

For Cinderella tickets, go to https://theatreroyal.org/shows/cinderella/