Cinderella

Date 3rd February 2022
Society Finedon Church Sunday School Entertainment Society
Venue The Star Hall, Finedon
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Joseph Lawrence and Sue Wilson
Musical Director Daniel Waterfield
Choreographers Joseph Lawrence, Sue Wilson, and Christy-Ann Wilson

Report

Author: Luke Campbell

Finedon Church Sunday School Entertainment Society (‘FCSSES’) has staged a traditional pantomime for the town of Finedon since 1933!

The Society is the ‘caretaker and custodian of the fabulous Star Hall in Finedon’ at which it has performed its annual pantomime throughout its long history. However, the adjective ‘fabulous’ does not quite do the venue justice. After many years of watching shows at Star Hall, I was finally able to bag a back-stage tour, curtesy of Sue Wilson – Vice Chair of FCSSES. The glimpse into the inner workings of the venue did not disappoint. The Hall provides a truly marvellous space in which Community Theatre, of any kind, can thrive.  

FCSSES, necessarily, took the difficult decision to cancel its 2021 pantomime, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The unprecedented impact of the pandemic on is greatly emphasised by the fact that the last time the Society cancelled its annual pantomime was during the Second World War.

Despite the challenges of the past two years, FCSSES has continued to play an important part in the community of Finedon. The ‘team spirit and camaraderie’ the Chairman, Joseph Laurence, attributes to the continued success of the Society were clearly on display during my visit and back-stage tour; I am sure this ethos has been the bedrock upon which FCSSES has built 89 years of success!

The audience was packed with community support, with the local Scouts, friends, and family bravely returning to Star Hall to support an organisation clearly considered to be integral to Finedon. Amongst the patrons was, also, a rather famous Father, namely, the Revered Richard Coles FRSA FKC. As the President of FCSSES and vicar of Finedon, his presence further denotes the central role this Society plays in its community.

The pantomime, ‘Cinderella’ holds special sentiments for me; it was the last show I starred in. Having not watched a production of the pantomime (nor been on stage) since, I was very excited to lose myself in FCSSES’s offering.  

I, like the audience, greatly enjoyed FCSSES’s marvellous interpretation of ‘Cinderella’! The production was packed with all the essential traditional pantomime traits: a mass of gender-bending characters; lots of thigh slapping; innuendo galore; awful ‘Dad’ jokes aplenty; and more cheese than even Leicester and Gloucester (one out of three pairs of comedy duos on stage) would want to get their hands on.

Many congratulations on a job well done!

 

Creatives

Direction by Joseph Lawrence and Sue Wilson was of a very good standard. It was clear to me that the pair had rehearsed the cast extremely well to create a slick production. The blocking of company scenes was excellent, with diverse placing creating texture and depth for the audience to enjoy. This was quite an achievement given the number in the company: moving a sizable cast around a stage, with extremely limited wing space and zero backstage, is extremely challenging. I wonder whether, the pair, as a further challenge, might be able to introduce a few from their sizable chorus to the principal scenes. This would, for me, add some additional energy to the stage.

 

A favourite scene of mine was Act II, Scene 4: Hardup Hall, in which the Ugly Sisters and Cinderella tried on the glass slipper. Directing such scenes, with large amounts of prop-dependent comedy, is never easy. I, of course, also enjoyed the crowd-pleasing walk throughs, which occurred throughout the production, and the song-sheet.  

 

Musical direction by Daniel Waterfield was of a high standard. The cast was well practiced in vocals, with company numbers producing an accomplished block of sound, despite the complete lack of male vocals in the chorus. All the principal numbers were delivered well, but the truly splendid soprano of Tracey Barker added the essential magic required by this production’s transformation scene. The small band, which provided the music throughout the evening, should also be congratulated on its talented offering to the production.

 

Choreography, provided by Christy-Ann Wilson, was of a good standard, varied, and well executed by all. The junior chorus also did a brilliant job, producing charming routines.  

 

Cast

The cast of principals was a strong one, with all members working hard to develop clear characterisation that conformed to the demands of traditional pantomime characters. There are, however, some specific mentions I would like to make.

 

First, a massive well done to Jessie Trasler, Honey Gallen, and Frankie Cox on their portrayals of Cinderella, Prince Charming, and Dandini, respectively. The young trio took on the difficult task of giving life to principal characters that often, if I am honest, in panto, lack any character! The task that Jessie, Honey, and Frankie had was, thus, much greater than that of those playing baddies or comedic roles – these naturally provide actors something to get their teeth into. The three, collectively, did a brilliant job and I am confident that – with the nurturing of the experienced members of FCSSES – the natural ability of these young principals will grow. As a direct note: “You can learn a massive amount from the very talented adult members you share the stage with. Become sponges and soak up all they have to share with you!”.

 

Second, Taylor Armitage, as Catnip, delivered the performance of the evening. This talented 12-year-old took on, with great ability, the role of the show’s baddie. Her characterisation brilliant; her interaction with other cast members was wonderful; she had great projection; and her rapport with the audience was beyond that of her years. A massive well done! I am excited to see Taylor’s growth as an actor in the years to come.

 

Third, the comedic work of Jon Baish (Buttons) and Thomas York (Charlie) was superb. Both have well developed stage craft and delivery, which are essential when dealing with a lively panto audience.

 

Finally, I must applaud Tracey Barker on her wonderful performance as the Fairy Godmother. Tracey commanded the charm and grace expected by the part, but also demonstrated great characterisation and whit when required.

 

Congratulations to all I have not named: you all delivered laudable performances worthy of praise.

 

I also applaud the chorus on the contribution that each member made to the production. Further, I extend a massive well done to the junior chorus, who all performed with wide smiles and real effort for an appreciative audience.

 

Production

The scenery was colourful and appropriate for the production. The staging and props were of a good standard – although it is quite something when a pumpkin becomes a basket!

 

The principals were costumed in splendid attire, which was of a very good standard. The numerous costumes worn by the chorus were well made, added a blast of colour, and enhanced the visual offering. And, of course, I must not forget, Cinderella’s transformation dress – the quick change from drab to debonaire was well managed by the costume team.

 

I applaud the cast for working without a single microphone on stage. This is no easy task. The experienced members of the company masterfully projected their voices for all to hear; with time and experience, the junior members of the society will also learn this skill, which is essential, regardless of the microphones on offer.  

 

The lighting design was of a good standard and worked well for the production. I particularly enjoyed the pyrotechnics, which always enhance the visual offering in such productions. The UVI scene, however, was the triumph of the evening when it comes to lighting!  

 

Well done to the backstage crew, who managed almost, every scene transition with ease. This is quite something given that every transition was managed manually by a dedicated backstage crew. When there was a hiccup, it was managed with professionalism (by cast and crew alike) and met with cheers of support from the audience.

 

I extend my thanks to the chaperones without whom the pantomime stage would be missing the important presence of children.

 

The programme was of a professional standard. The poster that marketed the show was equally of a high standard.

 

Closing Remarks

 

My warmest of congratulations for a truly wonderful production of ‘Cinderella’ which was truly ‘mice to see, to see mice!’ and provided a welcomed ‘Brucie Bonus’ for a Thursday evening.

 

As Community Theatre builds back from the unprecedented circumstances created by the pandemic, I consider it vital to acknowledge the huge amount of work undertaken by the committees at societies to keep theatre alive and accessible in our communities. From my discussions with Sue Wilson, it is clear to me that the FCSSES Committee has worked relentlessly over the past two years to ensure that the well-established Society weathered the storm.

 

I congratulate all Committee members on the tenacity shown in the face of the pandemic, cancelled shows, broken boilers, and exhausted financial reserves. I know how trying the recent months must have been and, therefore, on behalf of NODA East Midlands, thank you endlessly for continuing to provide a vital service to the people of Finedon.  

 

I thank FCSSES for the extremely warm hospitality shown to me upon my visit, and, once again, I express my gratitude to Sue Wilson for the backstage tour.

 

I look forward to seeing the Society’s next annual pantomime, which will be, by my calculations, staged in FCSSES’s 90th year. Looking ahead, I hope a celebration, to commemorate this milestone, is underway. And I, for what it is worth, will greatly enjoy singing ‘Happy Birthday’, alongside ‘God Save the Queen’, at the end of next year’s panto, which will mark a truly monumental achievement, of 90 years of shows, for FCSSES!

 

 

Luke Campbell

 

NODA Representative, East Midlands District 7