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Holly Topping as Cinderella and Craig Hollingsworth as Buttons. Pictures: Nicola Young


Coventry Belgrade


After 30 years’ association with the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, Iain Laughlan is well on the way to creating an institution. His cheery, clever, capable adaption of classic pantomime fare Cinderella is a sure-fire winner, and centres on dreams.

I love panto and to me the Belgrade panto signals the approach of Christmas more reliably than any number of Christmas carols. This one – and I am the lucky recipient of more than most – is his best ever.

Nobody, surely, needs the story. Cinderella (Holly Topping) is the servant to her wicked stepmother Lady Hard-Up (Emma Mulkern – who also plays fairy godmother and those boots had me mesmerised) and her two daughters Flatula (Iain Laughlan and Aroma (Andy Hockley). You’re probably beginning to sense the level? Buttons (Craig Hollingsworth) is Cinderella’s friend and also servant to the family. The Prince (Letitia Hector) with the aid of Dandini (Loren Sunni) has been told to hold a ball in order to choose a wife. The rest of the story you’ll know or can definitely guess.

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Iain Lauchlan as Dame Flatula and Andy Hockley as Aroma.

There are moments of sheer comedy genius that brought the house down. Warring Aroma and Flatula from either side of the stage with Buttons as piggy in the middle, relaying increasingly confusing and lengthy messages, are discussing Sue and her sister Sharon’s sushi-selling regime on a Saturday. The tongue-twisting is hilarious and I loved the improvised asides where one or other – or both - go wrong.

The costumes are increasingly outrageous with the sisters at the ball dressed in crisp packets from ‘Stalkers’! An animatronic flying horse takes Cinders to the ball in the most – trust me here – extravagantly glittery dress ever – and quick changes are the order of the day – with Buttons magic tricks adding a new dimension entirely.

As you’d expect, the audience has a huge part to play and a lovely lady called Michelle had to cope with watering a very suggestive plant every time it wilted. Two chaps were volunteered to be the boyfriends of the sisters but they coped! As ever the children, in our case Team Slippers did a gorgeous supporting job throughout. If you like to keep the vestigial child within on form, this is the stuff for you. It is hugely entertaining, clever, extremely funny and a joy from start to finish. I’m going again. To 13-01-24

Jane Howard


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