Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (showing from Dec 6 – Jan 12)

We were lucky enough to be invited to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on Tuesday 10 December to view this year’s Christmas pantomime, the spectacular that is Cinderella. The show itself opened on Friday December 6 but will be showing two performances almost every day until it finally closes on January 12 next year. With that amount of shows during the day, in the evening, over the weekend and in the week, there is absolutely no excuse not to go support the excellent cast and crew at the Yvonne Arnaud this year!

There is a particularly local feel to the pantomime this year which is an added bonus with Cinderella herself played by second year PPA student Alice Baker, Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon playing ugly sister Peachy, and local Surrey resident and PPA patron Bonnie Langford guest starring as Fairy Snow. There was also support from Robert Maskell as Baron Hardup, who was spotted during his performances for the Guildford Shakespeare Company, Jamie Brook (or Buttons on the night) and Will Breckin (playing Dandini) are both Guildford School of Acting graduates as well as six of the ensemble cast and three of the junior performers (who were the real starts of the show) also coming from Guildford’s PPA.

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The performance itself was high on energy, production value, quality and entertainment- everything that you could ever wish for from a Christmas pantomime! Bonnie Langford, Surrey-born singer, dancer, actress and entertainer opened the show introducing her character as Fairy Snow, an academy student hopeful of receiving a Gold Medal for her fairy skills in match making. And it wasn’t long before the scene was set for the beautiful Alice Baker, who was full of smiles, to make her appearance as the protagonist Cinderella, alongside her hapless, but ever faithful Buttons played by the marvellous Jamie Brook.

Brook did an admirable role in entertaining the audience through his slapstick performance, his interaction with the audience and his obvious mastery of the art of pantomime acting; getting the kids vocally involved and having some friendly banter with adult members of the audience. There were surprisingly no ‘He’s behind you’s’ but we did sing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ repeatedly as a collective and help guard Buttons’ secret diary by beckoning him back on stage when anyone approached it in the corner.

Prince Charming, played by Tom Senior was dashing and confident, proving a good foil for Cinderella and Will Breckin playing Dandini did a sterling job as the King’s chief guard. Robert Maskell as Baron Hardup had an important cameo role as the father of Cinderella, and of course, the two ugly sisters. These two wretched creatures full of vanity and spite were fabulously played by Kit Hesketh-Harvey (Kitty) and Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon (Peachy). The pair were involved in almost every scene; causing laughter, disgust and shock throughout with their wonderfully crafted costumes, occasional duets and general on-stage chemistry.

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A few words must certainly be reserved for ‘Imagine Scenery’ who provided the scenery, doing an excellent job in crafting the enchanting village, woods and palace in which the actors and actresses could play out this old tale. Just as importantly, ‘Attle Costumes Ltd’ provided some sparkling and superbly designed costumes, from the matching seventeenth century attire the ensemble cast wore for the grand ball to the Christmas pudding dress that Peachy was unfortunately made to wear. Director Gerry Tebbutt, directing his 39th pantomime (12 of which have been at the Yvonne Arnaud) also did a fine job, giving the show a good pace and tempo which kept the kids entertained without losing track of the plot.

Overall, this year’s pantomime hit all the right spots and will continue to please Guildford audiences well into the New Year. There were parents, grandparents, teenagers and nippers all clapping, cheering, booing, hissing and singing just as much as each other throughout the show. Star talent Bonnie Langford performed an important role almost as a narrator giving the performance cohesion and the production value really stood out. So kids, grownups, families and friends should all try and make it down to the Yvonne Arnaud this Christmas to rejoice in an excellent performance that will undoubtedly have the whole family smiling.

James Martin