Review: Cinderella at the Stafford Gatehouse

Writer: Julie Coombe

Director: Richard Cheshire

Richard Cheshire returns for the second year to direct the Gatehouse’s most ambitious panto yet.

The set design by Morgan Brind at Little Wolf Productions completely fills the stage at the Gatehouse. With various scene changes, from a glittering winter forest to a charming yet quirky house and a beautiful ballroom each one transitions slickly, helped by the distraction of Dan Clarkson’s lighting design of a huge clock that surrounds the stage.

Julie Coombe’s book is laugh a minute family fun without detracting from the story of Cinderella. The humour is constant, and there are plenty of modern touches, whether that be the Prince and Cinderella meeting at a demonstration to save the Phillip Oakey or the stepsister being influencers with a rapidly declining follower base. While there could have been some clearer references to the midnight deadline for Cinderella and the names of the Stepsisters Tess and Trace being less of a pun due to the pandemic being well behind us, there’s is very little to fault and all in all its an incredibly strong panto that’s fun for the whole family.

Under Richard Cheshire’s direction, every moment of humour is unlocked while keeping the production firmly on track. The first act feels like a breeze and features with the most wonderful glittering golden flying horse-drawn that wouldn’t be put of place in a venue double the size of the Gatehouse. It fills the stage, and if that isn’t enough, it lifts up and starts to fly as snow starts to fall. It’s a showstopping moment with a huge wow factor.

Act Two is equal to the first, and the laughs just never stop coming. Complete with a slop scene full of so much slapstick, the whole family will be laughing constantly. Complete with a ghost scene, a tonguetwister, and some cheeky double entendre, there’s no doubting the craftsmanship that went into creating this panto-tastic family treat that’s full of traditional panto charm.

Ricky K is a star of the show as Buttons. He’s got the audience in his hands from the getgo, and while his charisma will captivate a younger audience, his cheeky visual humour is equally as funny for all the family.

Harriet Thorpe of Absolutely Fabulous fame makes a glorious Fairy Godmother. Thorpe is warm with a touch of class and style. The perfect guardian to watch over Cinderella played by Aya Elmansouri who equally is sweet, charming, and has a lovely voice.

Allan Jay and Tom Vaughan are a cracking duo as Dandini and Prince Charming. Jay a slight camp, witty and sassy Dandini with Vaughan being the picture perfect Prince with a voice to match. Both bounce off each other and their boyish banter is bound to create some unexpected chaos to hilarious affect.

Topping of this incredibly talented cast are Will Peaco and Jason Sutton as Tess and Trace Hard up, the ugly sisters. They power onto the stage with a sinister smirk and work the crowd up to a frenzy. Both performers balance up the wickedness of the characters well, while remaining characters you can laugh at too.

The large ensemble pull off Rebecca Jeffery’s high energy routines that make full use of the space available. With music from Lady Gaga, Hocus Pocus 2 and Status Quo you have musical numbers for everyone to enjoy. Vaughan and Elmansouri create a stunning duet when they meet at the ball which really sells their connection with each other. While the use of backing vocals sometimes overpowers the talented live vocals, all in all it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of them.

If you want traditional family panto, you can’t go far wrong with Stafford this year. What the team has managed to do with a venue, the space of the Gatehouse is incredibly impressive. With super staging, a spectacular horse drawn carriage, and a tremendously funny cast, this top tier panto is absolutely fabulous festive fun

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Four Coins

Value for Money Comments:
With a large cast and some great staging you can’t go wrong at this reasonably priced panto priced between £21.50 and 29.50

🎁This production was gifted in exchange for a fair and balanced review 🎁

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