REVIEW: Cinderella, Regis Centre, Bognor, until January 2.
If you want the spirit of panto distilled and deliciously delivered, take a trip to Bognor Regis this Christmas.
Hard to believe this was only their third performance, but the cast have clearly hit the ground running, simply oozing all the warm-hearted fun that keeps us all coming back to panto year after year after year. Of course it helps that there are some terrific 3D effects in the second half, with snakes, spiders and even skulls lurching out at us in the audience. And in the first half, the mice, multiplying and appearing at every window, are gorgeous, very sweetly and effectively done.
But these are the extras... over and above the panto’s beating heart, and that heart is the accomplished cast who work so brilliantly well together to offer something genuinely special this Christmas.
Lucy-Jane Quinlan is a splendid Cinderella. She has a lovely, warm, natural and engaging presence, but also invests our heroine with plenty of spirit. Opposite her, Regis Centre returnee Titus Rowe is an equally-natural Prince Charming, filling the role and also developing nicely his part-swapping sub-plot with Riley Clark’s ever-game Dandini.
Trying to stop true love’s course is the dastardly double act, Drew Donnell as Cruella and Andy McGuire as Trunchbull, a perfectly foul pairing of ugly sisters, vain, preening and thoroughly obnoxious – but great fun too. Their costumes are suitably outrageous and so too is their behaviour. No wonder the audience, egged on at every turn, gets so thoroughly behind sweet Cinders and the forces of good.
A lovely little twist in this particular version is that we don’t have a Baron Hardup. The Baron has become a Baroness in a specially-written part for Bognor Regis panto regular Vicky Edwards, always a crowd favourite, another stage natural highly skilled at delivering precisely what we want from panto. Plus some. Her DJing baron is a hoot.
Completing the panto magic is Kate Richards, delightful as our fairy godmother, delivering all the required magic. Henry Roadnight’s Buttons is also spot on.
Individually the performances are terrific, but what makes it all so appealing is that the individuals are all so obviously working together – and having a lovely time, infectiously so. The Regis Centre always offers the warmest of welcomes; the cast do the rest. Pantomime, that bewildering, bonkers, utterly nonsensical great British tradition, is in the safest of hands in Bognor thanks to a cast that respects it, understands it and delivers it to perfection.