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I went to the Tunbridge Wells Pantomime this week.

Oh no you didn’t!

Oh yes I did!

Cinderella was at the Assembly Hall Theatre, and it’s been years since I’ve been to a Pantomime so daughter Rana and I decided to have a night out together.

I do like the seating layout there. We sat in row S and had a clear, unblocked sight of the stage and Cinderella scenery as the seats slope steeply upwards. (Try saying that several times quickly!)

You shall go to the ballActually, there’s a scene where Buttons has a growing list of tongue twisters to say with the Ugly Sisters, and he carries it off perfectly!

It started promptly at 7, which impressed me as I hate late.

The first person on the stage was a lady called Emma Creffield, and apart from the Interval, she was stood at the side there the whole time with a spotlight on her. I can’t see her name in the programme, but to me she was the most important person in the Cast.

Who was she? Emma is a Signer. She does sign language for the deaf.

Buttons tried to wind her up a few times, firing strange words at her like supercalafragilisticexpialidocious, or however it’s spelt. And yes, she could keep up with him easily!

MRJ_0561-1I thought the first song was quite boring, and I couldn’t see the point of the group of villagers, except for the little children.

As the pantomime went on, I was really disappointed to see the changes in the original story. There’s no Wicked Stepmother! She’s one of Pantomime’s arch-villains! It’s her who reduces Cinderella to a kitchen slave in rags!

But in this version, it seemed to be her soppy father, Baron Hardup, who went away socialising with changes of clothes while his daughter was left to struggle at home.

I thought that the Prince and Dandini’s version of Uptown Funk was excellent, and the Orchestra (all three of them) were such professional musicians that I really believed the music was recorded!

So what did I think of it all?

MRJ_0765-1As a child, I never could understand why the Principal Boy was a girl. The Dames were OK as they’re always funny. So I was glad that the Prince was a man.

Personally I didn’t like the big changes in the original story. I know that Pantomimes are traditionally updated, but for me this one went too far.

BUT but but but….. Hundreds of children would completely disagree with me. They were all totally enthralled, engrossed, involved and entertained.

Children are always told to sit still and be quiet. But at a Pantomime, they’re encouraged to yell as loud as they can – and they did! But in between the interaction, you couldn’t hear a pin drop.

Seeing them all leaving the theatre, they’d all had a wonderful, magical time!

And do remember that it’s my job to be picky.

MRJ_1357-1I’ve just realised after all these years that if Cinderella’s Dad’s Baron Hardup, that makes Cinderella a Lady, so she’s a perfectly acceptable wife for a Prince!

Cinderella is played by Dani Harmer, one of the biggest stars of children’s TV in BBC’s history. She played Tracy Beaker.

Louise Jameson is the Fairy godmother. She has appeared in many things over the years. I knew her from Tenco.

Jamie Rickers plays Buttons.

In my opinion, he stole the show, and obviously improvised a lot.

Sometimes you would see the cast turn their backs on the audience, with their shoulders heaving up and down as they tried to control their laughter.

Richard Colson is Baron Hardup, David Ball and Byron Mondahl are the Ugly sisters.

Owen Thompson is Prince Charming and Bobby Windebank is Dandini.

After the Pantomime finished, Rana and I decided to get something to eat, but it seems that Tunbridge Wells closes at 10pm!

If any restaurants near the Assembly Hall stay open, it would be a good idea for them to advertise in the Programmes!

Cinderella runs from Fri 11th December (my birthday!) To Sun 3rd January ’16.

 

Assembly Hall,

Crescent Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 2LU

www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk

 

If you drive a few yards past the theatre, there’s a multi-storey car park. You can park there at night for just £1.

Photos by Jezz Timms