Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

cinder cast

Dan Ashford as Buttons, Rachael Louise Pickard as Cinderella, Megan Matthews as the Prince and Charlotte Crowe as Dandini


Hall Green Little Theatre


Ugly sisters, a thigh slapping prince – even though his/her thighs did go unsullied – and a forgetful fairy godmother means it’s panto time again at Hall Green . . . oh, yes it is!

But, sorry cast, the real stars of this show are the special effects starting with a stunning Cinderella dress transformation from the wardrobe team of Gillian Pickhard and Jean Wilde which took two months to develop.

The instant rags to ball gown is not an easy one to pull off for amateur companies, especially centre stage in full view and to see Rachael Louise Pickard spin around and her rags transform into an elegant powder blue ball gown was a moment of theatrical magic, well worthy of its round of applause.

The second stunner was a magical coach designed by director Roy Palmer. Two by two, 10 elements, studded with bright white LEDs, float in on a blacked-out stage, slowly connecting to form an elegant coach, add a footman and driver, place Cinderella inside, all picked out by clever lighting to leave all but the coach in blackness, then rotate the wheels and you have the best coach I have yet seen in an amateur production. It’s clever and well deserved its own round of applause and cheers. The 10 elements, incidentally, slotted together by the young ensemble, apparently contained 1,100 individual LED bulbs – a major feat of construction.


Ugly sisters James Weetman as Prosecco and Jack Heath as Cava who tend to attract bats and certainly frighten horses

Meanwhile, back at the story, the tradition of the principal boy has been restored. These days in professional productions the role is usually taken by some soap star or a talent show name so it is nice to see a thigh slapping return to tradition in the shape of 17-year-old Megan Matthews, who, sadly, never slapped her thigh once, but she managed everything else in princely fashion, and you can’t have everything.

Charlotte Crowe, carried on the tradition of female, male leads, as the reliable Dandini, which must really confuse foreigners watching the uniquely British tradition of panto when after that gender bender they find two of the female leads are in fact men – the ugly sisters.

James Weetman as Prosecco and Jack Heath as Cava do a splendid job as the sisters managing to be nasty, but not too much so, mixed with enough stupidity to keep kids amused – and the place was packed with cubs, rainbows and brownies, who were up for it from the off. Enthusiastic, noisy (very), and joining in at every opportunity, they were an excited delight, always well behaved and a credit to their troops.

Katharine Williams is a delightfully offhand Baroness Hardup, the wicked stepmother, again nasty enough to know she is not nice, so we’ll all boo her, but not out and out evil. Panto is all about cartoon baddies.


Katharine Williams is the delightfully offhand Baroness Hardup,

And goodies, of course which brings us to the normal half, normal being a relative term here, of the hard up Hardup household. There is the Baron, played by Steve Brear, who appears to be a distant relative of Mr Magoo, who has his own version of 20:20 vision, in that he cannot see anything beyond about 20 centimetres and was last seen drinking happily out of a flower vase.

Then there is Cinders herself, played with due innocence by Hall Green regular Rachael Louise Pickard with 19-year-old Dan Ashford, entering into the rough and tumble of hello kids, hello Buttons pantoland for the first time.

Buttons is the link between the audience and the show, the cheeky chappie leader of the gang in the seats. It’s a difficult role and Ashford was finding his feet more and more as the night went on, oh, yes, he was, earning cheers at the end.

Finally there is the house mouse, Matilda, who is really a princess, but has been mousebound thanks to a miscast spell. Not to worry, a new spell turns her into a princess again, played by Ellie Hollie.

And the spellbound caster of spells is Helen Dawson as the forgetful fairy godmother who, even after several centuries, has yet to get a spell right to help anybody to earn her wings – which will hardly fill Cinders with confidence.

And behind them all was the lively ensemble led by Katie Driver, whose enthusiasm lights up the stage, with Nancy Houston, Poppy Houston, Jess Donnelly Jack Marsh, Emily Smith and Alfie Redmond.

Scenic artist Freddie Remmington has done a good job on cloths and trucks with some nice looking sets designed by Palmer enhanced by colourful costumes giving panto authenticity. We even have a clock that moves in the ball scene, but as it is ten to midnight when Cinders arrives, true love is more speed dating in this case.

The script, by HGLT member Dean Taylor, takes a few liberties with the original tale come the second act, with a twist on the shoe fitting which I did not find entirely successful, but with a smaller cast than usual, allowing a bit more focus, Roy Palmer and his team have produced the best panto at Hall Green for some time, Oh yes they have! To 16-12-17

Roger Clarke


Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate