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by on 3 December 2022

Uninhibited Gusto


by Alan P Frayn

Network Theatre Company at Network Theatre, Waterloo until 4th December 

Review by Nick Swyft

Tucked in down in the service area under Waterloo station is the little gem that is Network Theatre.  This is the place to go for a refreshing and very welcome return to ‘Traditional Pantomime’.  It seems that in recent years, panto has been swamped with various modern agenda and has suffered as a result.  Cinderella brings us back to the kind of uproarious uninhibited ‘gender bending’ entertainment that predates Ru Paul by hundreds of years.  Even Dandini’s (Gabriela Papievyte) thigh slapping was back!  The audience loved it.

The cast did too, and although the unexpected occasionally happened, they rode over the bumps with a gusto that only enhanced the entertainment.  All of them gave their best, but the star of the show was the hapless James.  The ‘star maker’ was Grizelda (Andrew Hall), one of the man-hungry ugly sisters, who picked him out of the audience as the unfortunate object of ‘her’ affection.  In getting there, she also picked me out, telling my wife that this was clearly her second marriage, since I wasn’t her first choice either.  I would love to see his face when he reads this!  I loved every moment!

The scope for an over the top performance from the ugly sisters was brilliantly exploited.  Both Grizelda and her sister Gertrude (Simon May) were delightfully horrible.  In the same vein the two builders Bodget (Alan Scott) and Leggett (Matthew Partridge) shared the one-liners that had the audience ‘rolling in the aisles’.  One of the highlights was their beach ball routine, a delightfully simple set that engaged everyone.  Note that some of these jokes are a little risqué, but are unlikely to traumatise children … until their parents explain them.

Another highlight was Cinderella’s (Catherine Stevens) sad little rendition of Elton John’s Your Song with only her horse Hagan (Kay Murray and Dom Thomson) to hear it.  It brought a tear to the eye of this old cynic.

This performance benefited from the absence of big stars, who rarely enhance the entertainment in my view, and kept the ticket prices down (to a mere twelve quid!).

The Network Theatre has been providing great theatre since 1939 with musicals, comedy, tragedy, classical and new writing, and this perfectly potty panto adds another success to its repertoire.

Nick Swyft, December 2022

Photography by Paul Lunnon

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