A Cinderella Fairy Tale

Date 24th January 2014
Society Washington Theatre Group
Venue Washington Arts Centre
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Peter Marshall & Marie Lovell


Author: Gordon Richardson

The chairman’s notes in the programme mentioned the tale of Cinderella ‘not quite like you’ll have seen it before’. This summarised the plot very well because, as ever, Washington TG write their own scripts ‘in-house’ with a unique twist on traditional plots.

Starting with announcement, by order of Prince Charming, of dire consequences of death (or worse) for anyone ignoring rules of mobile phones being switched off - we were firstly introduced to ‘Alfred’, faithful (and long suffering) butler to Prince Charming.  ‘Alfred’ (played by John Seymour) was the supreme factotum and could have stepped out of the set of Downton Abbey. For those unused to pantomimes he explained to the many youngsters in the auditorium the ‘correct and respectful’ way to cheer (and boo) the respective characters, mimicking them as he did so.  It was a real ‘ice breaker’ and the audience responded accordingly.

The production itself opened to a single spotlight on ‘Fairy Cake’ who was on trial, accused by the three ethereal voices from the Ministry of Enchantment as her ‘crimes’ were related to her for explanation.  It seemed like every pantomime was given a ‘nod’ as ‘Fairy Cake’ (played superbly with much humour and buffoonery in Lancashire accent by the talented Anne-Marie Pitcairn) defended her previous actions, and was allowed one last attempt at redeeming herself by helping Cinderella.

The Inn of the Ugly Sisters was the setting for the workplace of Cinderella (Cathy Wood) and her Stepmother, Madam Cruel (Sarah Tetchner). The two ugly sisters (Peter Fitzpatrick and Calum Price) had some very cutting and clever one-liners, but their acting was ‘wooden’ – those at the performance will know that is a compliment to the pair.  Buttons and his friend, the squirrel, Larry, were cleverly portrayed as puppets operated with expert comic timing and dialogue by Rachel Neill and Peter Marshall respectively.

Prince Charming (Matthew Lowe) was portrayed as not very bright – often being influenced in his thoughts by ‘Alfred’.  Dialogue between the pair was humorous, if a little risqué for younger children in the audience.  Prince Charming naturally fell in love with Cinderella at first sight, or was it her alter ego Lady Pumpin (Cinderella ‘double’ for the quick changes – played well by Kate Upshall Davis). The chemistry between ‘Charming’ and ‘Cinderella’ was well played and the two looked good together.

Adding the villainous element to the pantomime was Madam Cruel who really excelled in both her mistreatment of Buttons and Larry, and her mannerisms as played out to the audience. Sarah, playing the role, gave a master class as someone who could be booed and hissed without overly frightening the children in the audience.

In an effort to rescue Cinderella from her prison at the Inn, Fairy Cake magic’ed up a horse (almost) - as she attempted to ride it (looking remarkably like Rod Hull’s ‘Emu’) through the audience and via the projected video on a whistle stop tour of various landmarks through Washington and Penshaw pursued by Policeman and a thief who had been disturbed stealing one of the artefacts of the Washington Arts centre before arriving back through videoed backstage tour of the theatre onto the stage.  A superb effect created and videoed by Peter Marshall, Marie Lovell and Nigel Judson.

We even got appearances by Snow White and seven companions at the Prince’s ball by the juvenile dancers.

A perfect antidote for a cold wet evening – well done Washington TG .

And by the way – Fairy Cake was acquitted and was promoted to ‘God-Fairy’!!!!