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Cinderella Meets the Monsters

by on 29 October 2021

Spooky, Creepy and Zinging

Cinderella Meets the Monsters

 by Loz Keal  

Teddington Theatre Club, Hampton Hill Theatre, until 31st October

Review by Gill Martin

Hallowe’en hit Hampton Hill early as Cinderella and the Monsters marched into town.

Witches in pointy hats, scary kids in chains and a mummified girl with her face and head completely wrapped in bandages made this a fright night not to forget.   And that was just the audience.

The auditorium of Hampton Hill Theatre was festooned with cobwebs, bats and spiders.   Drifting dry ice and an open coffin set the scene at Dracula’s castle.   I was in character with a glass of blood, masquerading as reasonable red wine, a black eye and five stitches in a head gash (the latter from a pavement fight rather than stage make-up).

Teddington Theatre Club presented a drama-starved audience – an almost full house on the second night – with a panto to remind us of what we’ve so missed:   high energy fun, song, dance, dodgy gags, crazy characters, ridiculous costumes with enough sequins for a Strictly series.

Cinderella Meets the Monsters, written by panto veteran Loz Keal and directed by Marc Batten, is billed for children of all ages, and the enthusiastic hissing, booing and ‘It’s Behind You’ young audience participation was deafening, especially in the second act when all that lolly pop and jelly-baby sugar hit the mark.

Crystal slipper meets green slime is a re-work of the much-loved story of beautiful, caring Cinders (Tracy Sorgiovanni)  winning the heart of a prince charming or, in this case, a dashingly posh count (Gita Singham-Willis).   Horrid but glamorous stepmother (Tash Wills) and ugly stepsisters treat her cruelly – cue more hissing and booing – but good trumps evil -cue cheering and clapping.

This is especially apt as one of the ugly sisters is called Trumper for obvious reasons.   Juanita Al-Dahhan excels in demonstrating her obnoxious habits.

She and her sister Borisita – now who inspired that name? – played by David Hannigan – vied with each other to claim top prize for spite, groan-worthy lines (‘I have everything a man could wish for’ … ‘Muscles, hairy chest and a moustache,’ suggests her sister) and bonkers costumes, padded out like a human pumpkin or flaunting fluorescent froth over silver boots.

Top marks for wardrobe Mags Wrightson and Lesley Alexander plus their sewing team.   Louise Ellard-Turnball did a sterling job with wigs, hair and make-up.

No need for clunky scenery changes, thanks to a neat trick by set designer Fiona Auty for her backdrop of a giant book, whose pages were turned to transport us speedily scene to scene: from the lab of Cinders’ father Frank Enstein (amiably played by Matt Ludbrook) a troubled scientist cursed by his wife, the Wicked Witch, to a creepy forest haunted by ghosts and ghouls;  from the step sisters’ boudoir to the venue for the Rocky Horror Show-themed ball.

Cinderella, becoming in her pretty pink rags, but denied a chance to attend the ball and meet her beau, is befriended by an old biddy who could pass as Julie Walters with a Brummie accent.   She ditched the accent to morph into Fairy God Mummy, a statuesque Egyptian goddess.   Louise Ellard-Turnbull plays her with style, with glittering Cleopatra costume and great moves for Walks Like an Egyptian.

And so Cinders shall go the ball.  God Mummy transforms her rags into a swishing ball-gown, a pumpkin becomes a bicycle (conveniently off-stage) but the warning is the same: all will change back on the stroke of midnight.

The familiarity of the story is like a shrugging on a favourite winter coat, all warm and comforting.   While the youngsters relish the frisson of fear and danger (some retreated into mummies’ laps) they also love the certainty of happy endings.

The music, thanks to musical director and production manager Julie Thomas, is a lively pick ‘n’ mix of genres: hip-hop, pop, rap, even a snatch of Phantom of the Opera, with plenty of tunes for sing-alongs.  And we did.  Or at least toe tap and clap to Dancing in the Street, Toxic, Murder on the Dance Floor, Time Warp, Tic Tok and the fitting finale: Monster Mash.

Panto demands audience engagement and this production received it by the shovel.   The youngsters adored Igor, Dr Frank Enstein’s trusted servant.   They warmed to young Arthur Holmes’ sensitive performance which grew in confidence.   They laughed with him, felt his fear in the forest and empathised with his unrequited love for Cinders.

‘I love you as a brother,’ she tells him.

‘What man doesn’t want to hear that?’ comes his doleful reply.

And who couldn’t adore Dandini, the Count’s faithful Aide de Camp, played with aplomb by Hannah Lobley?  Strong vocals, crisp timing and a swaggering presence dominated the stage.   Her glossy purple wig and shimmering costume added to the allure.

Choreographer Samantha McGill put the dancers through their fast paces, keeping the show energetic and exciting to watch.   In all, Cinderella Meets the Monsters is a top Hallowe’en panto.

Spooky, creepy and zinging with high octane fun and frivolity.

Oh yes it is!

Gill Martin, October 2021

Photography by Jojo Leppink, Handwritten Photography

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