NEVER work with children, animals or Brian Conley – that’s how the pantomime adage ought to go. He’s playing Buttons in Bristol Hippodrome’s Cinderella, on until 6th January, by which time his fellow cast members may know what he’s about to do … but I doubt it.
This is the most popular of all pantomime stories, so the writers (one Mr Conley and Michael Harrison) don’t trouble themselves too much with it – everyone knows it, don’t they?
Described as the “fairy godmother of all pantomimes”, this version is directed by Kathryn Rooney and choreographed by Matthew Cole. It brings magnificent, sumptuous costumes, fairytale sets and fun to an audience eager to see Conley (who found a wider audience in I’m a Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing) and Gok Wan in the flesh. And very good value they are.
Ben Stock and Neal Wright are flamboyantly nasty ugly sisters, with Lauren Hall as a spirited Cinders and Scott Mobley and Matthew Malthouse as a Prince and Dandini for the 21st century.
There’s no chance of too much sentiment when Cinderella meets her prince, with Buttons making sure they can’t get serious in a brilliantly timed forest wall routine. I’ve never seen a more skillful transformation than that the Fairy Gokmother pulls off with Cinderella’s dress. And the horses that pull our heroine to the ball … well, that would be telling.
It’s spectacular, full of invention and no expense has been spared at making it look marvellous. And the tiny dancers will steal your heart.
The irrepressible Brian Conley is in a league of his own, and remember, anything might happen if you wish upon a Button.