Natasha J Barnes (Cinderella), Paul Zerdin (Buttons)
Natasha J Barnes (Cinderella)
Paul O’Grady (Baroness Hardup)
Suzie Chard (Verruca), Paul O’Grady (Baroness Hardup), Wendy Sommerville (Hernia)
Julian Clary (Dandini)
Julian Clary (Dandini), Nigel Havers (Lord Chamberlain)
An all-star cast bogs down this unlovely slog of a panto
The Palladium is the home of variety, and a charitable interpretation of this fairly awful mega panto is that it’s a homage to that.
Certainly this ‘Cinderella’ is nothing if not a series of ‘turns’. There is a ventriloquist comedian called Paul Zerdin in the role of Buttons, who probably doubles the length of the show by basically just doing his actual act (he even plugs his live DVD at the end). There is Julian Clary, in the role of Dandini, who breaks out endless sexual innuendos that would be funny in isolation but make up whole swathes of the show (which should hopefully sail over kids’ heads, but nonethless, it’s startlingly smutty). There is Paul O’Grady, who enters into the spirit of things a bit more as Baroness Hardup – he sings some nicely gravelly voiced blues songs and there’s the feeling he’s actually doing a character – but nonetheless the story grinds to a halt when it’s his go.
And I haven’t even got started on the second tier of slebs: Nigel Havers (amusingly self mocking); Count Arthur Strong (funny, but out of place); Amanda Holden (kind of alright, I’d forgotten she was actually an actor), Lee Mead (bland) and Natasha Barnes (almost as bland).
Deep, deep into the second half, a bunch of the turns join forces for an entertaining old school music hall ditty and it’s a vision of what might have been if the whole thing had been more coherent. But it’s only a brief respite from the a endless series of solos, in which the sort of wit and invention lavished on the actual story by London’s proper pantos is completely absent (it’s just the classic story done straight, with three hours of interruptions). There’s no satire or overarching wit, just the shtick of whoever happens to be on stage at the time. It’s also the whitest panto ever – that’s the producers’ right, but it just shows how little grounding the show has in any sense of London community.
It’s panto for tourists, and it’s got the big names to pull them in by the coachload. Londoners - you can do much better.