Cinderella at the Fairfield Halls
Jenny Booth heads down to the Fairfield Halls to check out this year’s production, Cinderella.
Cinderella at Fairfield Halls in Croydon is like no panto you’ve seen before, and in a word, it’s big. Big stage – the massive open performance area gave acres of space to the dancers and actors, unfettered by a proscenium arch. Big sound, as a live band up on the balcony reverberated in Croydon concert hall’s famous acoustic. Above all, big visuals. The producers at Imagine Theatre have done away with the traditional painted set, and in its place are curved and shaped LED screens, showing backdrops and animations in fabulous, eye-popping technicolour. The sheer volume of sound and colour excited the kids in the audience, who were noisy and involved throughout.
It takes big performances to match such a big production, and everyone did pretty well. Stand-up comic Tim Vine owned the space as Buttons. His jokes were funny and he had the repartee to bounce off the electronic scenery. CBeebies presenter Cat Sandion related well to the kids as a feisty fairy godmother, and Strictly winner Ore Oduba used his nifty dance moves, gliding across the stage as the knowing palace aide Dandini. In the musical numbers he showed he has a singing voice as well as samba hips.
Although the spectacle was new and out there, the show itself was kept traditional, including much-loved traditions like a patter song to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas, an “It’s behind you” scene with capering ghosts, and of course the children brought on stage to receive presents. On press night, one of the lucky four, Eva, revealed that her grandad was reviewing the show, causing Vine to launch into a excess of smarming, much to the audience’s delight.
It is a well-balanced production, where the technology does not overpower the action but is used to enhance the moments of excitement and wonder, such as the climax of Act 1 as Cinderella’s dress is magically transformed. The uplifting Act 2 finale is an old-fashioned song and dance number, as the lovers (James Bisp as Prince Charming, and Grace Chapman as Cinderella) are united on their wedding day.
The quality of the singing was mostly excellent, with the occasional bum note. With three enjoyably grotesque villains to boo and a likeable hero and heroine, Cinderella is a great night out, possibly with sunglasses. Croydon hasn’t had a panto for three years while Fairfield Halls was being renovated, but now it’s back with a flash, crash, bang and wallop.
There’s still time before Christmas to get your panto fix – check out our guide to what’s on here.