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Review of Cinderella, performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Maidwell Hall (Avenue Campus), Northampton

So, this is a bit different, the third year actors (my fifth group of them!) do panto, Cinderella to be precise. Pantomime is my perennial favourite bit of theatre. Oh no, it isn't! However, I have long acknowledged that for an actor, the form is both incredibly important, because if you can entertain kids, you can probably do anything, it also provides a large opening for a regular gig each year as they are so abundant. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the intelligent bods teaching these students have come to the decision to create a little panto action of their own.

This first of three (and the other two are very different beasts, as you will learn from the next reviews) is the ever so traditional one. Formed partly from the work of Looking Glass Theatre and director James Smith, I first saw much of this piece in January 2015, and although I didn't remember a great deal of it after this time, the cheese song managed to flash back to me, perhaps, sadly. So, how do these students get a grip of the piece?

The answer mostly is pretty well, if on occasion just a little less enthusiastic than it needs to be. I and fellow blogger The Real Chrisparkle made perhaps a good decision to attend the 9.45am performance of the show, as having winged their crocodile way from Barry Primary were a gaggle of as many as sixty kids, and they turned out to be half the star of the show at times. There is nothing better than hearing seven or eight years olds shout out the most ridiculous things during a panto, and also almost sabotage the script in their infinite knowledge of where the story is going. They were really great, and either full of sugar, or just the endless enthusiasm that I left behind thirty odd years ago.

The cast coped admirably from the (requested) interference, most especially those of ugly sisters, Elouise (Mo Samuels) and Ermintrude (Chris Tyler) and stepmother (Alexandra Pienaru), who had the brunt of the boos and hisses and still managed to get most of their lines out. The Ugly Sisters were nicely played by Samuels and Tyler, with the latter especially getting a manly butch style out of Ermintrude, pumping iron for his muscle-bound physique. Curiously though, a potential flaw in this styling came when he was unable to lift the wallpaper in the later, but brilliantly physical comedy scene. Perhaps a switch of character would have been better there? Pienaru is a "delight" as the wicked stepmother, creating a real boo-hiss performance for all, and covers well when trapped within one of her dresses, a really great and enjoyable performance.

The main lady of Cinderella truly is captured in a gentle, and perfectly cast performance from Ceara Coveney, where she portrays perfectly that innocent style that we all recognise of lovely Cinders. Her transformation from the dowdy to the perfect princess is created also to stunning effect. Simply a delight of a performance. Also clearly having enormous thigh-slapping fun, eventually (if a little dour as befits at first) are Zoe Mayall as Prince Charming, and Chloe Hoffmeister as Dandini, they make a brilliant pairing together.

While it is a generally ineffectual character at times, I still didn't quite get the feeling that Hal Gallagher got enough out of his role as Baron Hardup. All of his scenes had little impact, and in the case of the custard pie scene, there was also little impact there either, with little custard on the face. Just a little disappointing really, as if you have a character like this, you have to just put that bigger effort in, and for me, Gallagher didn't quite do so.

Where making much of the lesser parts did occur was with Tiffany Mae Rivers and Liza Swart, bringing enormous humour to their blokey roles of Mutt and Jeff, where making a big audience-pleasing performance out of just simple scene changes, shows great effort on the actors part. Swart once again especially, shines far above her size and remains at this point for me, one of my ones to watch from this group.

As a first attempt for a panto from the students, it's a reasonably impressive one. The material at times is a little one directional, laying mostly for the younger members of the audience. However, as a piece for the students to learn how to play to a young audience, it works very well, and they handled their very enthusiastic and dynamic spectators impressively well. A worthy and successful experiment that should certainly be repeated.

Performance viewed: Thursday 14 December 2017 (morning) at Maidwell Hall, University of Northampton (Avenue Campus), Northampton
Twitter feed for the University actors is @BA_Actors

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