PANTOMIME is the most British of entertainments, traditionally staged over the Christmas period and aimed at all the family. Its essential elements are magic, laughter, colour, baddies getting their come-uppance and a happy, romantic ending.
They REALLY don’t come better than Bath Theatre Royal’s Cinderella.
We might have been delighted by Jon Monie in Bath pantos for 19 years, but this is only the second time we been treated to one of his scripts. It manages the rare feat of being genuinely funny, including jokes for all ages with a delightfully light touch (and perfect timing) for the innuendos that are sometimes cringeworthy. It includes references so topical they have hardly left the mouths of the politicians. Add real poignancy in the romantic moments, fantastic costumes, brilliant double acts and a sure-footed telling of the traditional story that seems fresh, modern and bespoke for the peculiar times we live in. All that and a transformation scene that leaves the audience gasping.
Of course, any pantomime in the Georgian Theatre Royal has the auditorium on its side, its ornate boxes and ceilings twinkling with lights to add to the magic of the experience. This years’ pantomimes are making much use of flying – maybe a skill that could be practised during lockdown. At Bath there’s a deal of airborne antics, none more comical than Jon Monie’s own.
It all gets started with Dani Harmer as a truly funny Fairy Godmother, setting a wry (if rhyming) tone that is continued by Josh Rose’s dense but loveable Prince Charming and his clever valet Dandini (Chris Fearn).
The inspired matching of Duncan Burt and Nic Gibney as ugly sisters Melody and Harmony brought us a devilishly funny duo. Their costumes, designed by Elizabeth Dennis, are as colourfully outrageous as their characterisations.
Elly Jay makes a memorably plucky Cinderella with a fine voice, and Michael Chance is a likeable if foolish Baron in a show that is strong on wry humour and inspired asides, so that little patches of laughter rang round the theatre. The show incorporates many well known songs, some with clever new lyrics.
I can’t remember ever seeing a funnier Cinderella, nor a warmer, happier feel from an entire audience. It is on until 9th January.