CINDERELLA is the most popular of all pantomimes, so it was the natural choice for the displaced Yeovil Octagon team as the first (of hopefully a very small number) of pantos to be staged at Westlands, their temporary home while the Octagon refurbishment progresses.
And it is a triumph!
The Octagon pantomime has got better and better in recent years, and panto company Evolution has built on that success, bringing back two of the funniest men on the seasonal stage to lead the team. Jack Glanville is a wonderful Buttons and Gordon Cooper, playing Ugly Sister Aldianna, is also directing this year.
The cast is small but perfectly chosen. I must have seen dozens of Cinderellas in my years of reviewing (and writing and performing in) pantomimes, but I don’t think I have ever seen a better Cinders than Beccy Lane. She, and her prince Mark Lamb, realise that the way to do it is as if you mean it. That means acting, as well as singing, dancing and enchanting the audience … so many times the title character relies on natural beauty and lovely costumes. And Mark is an excellent singer, as well!
Damian Patton’s Dandini is a comic riot of waving arms and legs as he sprints across the wide open stage of Westlands.
The fairy apprentice is played by Tash Moore
A native of Yeovil, delighted for sure
To arrange the finale, on local boards treading
And ensuring that no-one is late for the wedding
Another local performer, dancer and choreographer James Bamford, joins the villagers and courtiers, with Matthew Heald, Michaela Infante and Skye Meade. In Paul Hendy’s version of Cinderella, they each get their chance to shine, with their own cameos – their Strictly come Westlands is worth the price of the ticket in itself! It wouldn’t be as good without Twice Daily and Cloudier Wrinkled-Man, in the buxom bodies and twitching fringes of Aldianna and Lidleena.
Which brings us on to the Ugly Sisters. They come on like a tsunami of bad taste and garish outfits, and stay that way throughout. Gordon Cooper, a long-time favourite with Yeovil audiences, teams up with the insistently aggressive, and hilarious, Matt Daines. They are monstrously ghastly – and quite wonderful.
And Jack Glanville is one of the most poignant Buttons ever. He is SO fast on his feet that any pause is filled and any glitch covered. Local jokes vie for position with topical quips, and no target gets too much shot. All the panto elements are woven in, the story is perfectly told and the company exudes energy and enjoyment from the opening moment to the royal wedding walkdown.
The venue might be fraught with difficulties – no dressing rooms, no storage for stage flats, no orchestra pit etc – but on the plus side, the auditorium women’s loo has 12 cubicles … TWELVE. No theatre has as many as that other than the Royal Albert Hall and the new Sadler’s Wells.
This Cinderella is a triumph for the cast and production crew and for Octagon/Westlands manager Adam Burgan and his whole team.
Photographs by Len Copland