The panto season rolls inexorably onwards, and with it brings a cavalcade of local performances that entrench themselves in the local flavour of the community. This could not be more true of Hounslow Arts Centre’s performance of Cinderella, running until December 30th – a show frequently taking pot shots at nearby Richmond or Chiswick; this is a flavoured, local rendition of the traditional panto format, though now with the metareferences to the likes of Poundland and Greggs.
There’s much to enjoy here in what is a faithful (albeit ’embellished’) retelling of the famous Cinders story – girl beset by ugly stepsisters and stepmother, magically granted a chance to go to ball, falls for prince (though here a prince willing to have something akin to a ‘normal’ life), forgets footwear, finds prince, happily ever after. As is the case in most of the shows this Christmas season, the joy is in the journey rather than the arrival.
A few cast members take this specifically festive artform in its stride – especially Jonathan Ashby-Rock’s Buttons, Cinderella’s faithful manservant and audience sweetheart. In fact, Ashby-Rock’s likability was so pronounced that by the end of the show (potential spoilers!) we were almost dismayed that his feelings for Cinderella were left entirely unreciprocated and he was left alone. Jenny Huxley Golden’s Cinderella was a unique and engaging take on a character that the fairytales often leave uninteresting – thankfully she constantly kept the audience engaged and entertained.
A few missteps did, of course, exist in the show – a whole section involving ghost hunting and a Time Warp dance felt almost entirely unnecessary and disrupted the show’s pacing, while some songs (almost all of them riffed off major pop anthems from the last 30 years) seemed to drag on with just too many verses and choruses – some chopping and trimming may have been fruitful. The idea of dressing up two male performers in drag, seemingly for the sake of its own humor, also felt somewhat forced and underwhelming – naming the pair Hilary and Theresa equally felt like a lazy and unsatisfying attempt at contemporary satire.
For a small crew and cast, conjuring a fun pantomime for two hours was certainly a respectable feat, but one can’t help but feel that just a couple of extra performers could have truly pushed up the energy and kept this Cinderella running full steam when it stumbled. For those in the local area this is definitely one to have fun with, especially those afay with the contents of the nearby Greggs.