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Review: Cinderella at The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

PUBLISHED: 16:08 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:08 10 December 2019

Cinderella at The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham. Photo credit: Darren Bell

Cinderella at The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham. Photo credit: Darren Bell

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What's a 24-year-old software engineer/on-call firefighter doing going to the Cheltenham Everyman panto? When Cotswold Life reviewer Miles Jarvis stops laughing at Tweedy's jokes, he might just be able to tell us

To me, the feeling of Christmas comes through tradition and a healthy dose of nostalgia. Nothing brings back the child-like excitement of a festive holiday than revisiting seasonal memories - staying warm by a fire, watching family movies on TV, playing board games, and our annual trip to the theatre. So, when my mum, Katie Jarvis, asked me to tag in, as she sometimes does, to review the panto Cinderella at the Everyman, I quizzically accepted. I think more to try and recapture the feeling than anything else. (And as a good excuse to miss my departmental Christmas drinks down in Bristol)

In other words, what's a 24-year-old software engineer (by day)/on-call firefighter (by night) doing going to a pantomime? Very good question - and one I can now answer.

The show started with a comedic warm-up from Tweedy (playing Buttons). Kids and adults alike seemed loved him, and it was soon obvious why. "It's all dirty!" they roared on cue. (Is this a Tweedy catchphrase? I've no idea - they all appeared to know.) Beaming from ear to ear - it's clear he just loves what he's doing - within a few short minutes he'd put on a masterclass in physical comedy. Not just Tweedy, of course, but Keef (as himself), his pet iron, too.

Other than minor alterations, this story of Cinderella (beautifully played by Courtney-Brogan Smalley) stays true to the classic tale, and steers well clear of any whacky deviations - though this particular Cinderella is more of a giant pushover than a tragic victim of circumstance. Rather than trapped as a poor relation at home, she has her own pad in Cheltenham and invites her stepsisters (outrageous flirts Kevin Brewis and Steven Roberts) to come and stay. "You do want your sisters to feel at home?" they emotionally blackmail her, as she hurries around doing their bidding. "Grow a back-bone!" I felt like shouting at moments.

The script didn't waste any opportunities with its Gloucestershire setting. Dandini (Kane Verrall) - brilliantly flamboyant, to say the least - is amazed at the strangeness of the stepsisters - "And I've been to Stroud!" (I was thoroughly tickled at having my regional stereotypes affirmed through some rather on-the-nose quips.)

The borderline incompetent and proudly Essex fairy godmother (Annalise-Liard Bailey) (beware her teleportation spells); the rib-tickling ugly stepsisters (with their amazing outfits); even a special voice-over narration from Miranda Hart herself: the chemistry between the cast is fantastic. But Tweedy is the absolute star of the show. His on-stage antics are utterly hilarious, to the point of nearly making the other actors break down laughing.

They weren't the only ones. I found myself laughing from curtain to curtain. Probably my favourite scene was the side-splitting take on Cinderella and the suave Prince Charming's (Sam Murphy) special moment. Seriously, I was nearly crying with laughter. In fact, the evening flew by at a rate of knots.

Right from the get-go, it's clear the effort put in by all involved must be phenomenal. These actors are made for performing and revel in the gags and the laughter. The sets are fantastic - the special effects are flawless (I was rather impressed by Cinderella's dress-change!) - and the singing and dancing are on point.

So, if you want an evening that young and old can thoroughly enjoy, featuring everything from Ghostbusters sung by the ugly sisters, to a unique (you'll see what I mean) cover of Ed Sheeran's Perfect, come and see Cinderella get swept off her feet (quite literally) in this tongue-in-cheek take on the classic fairy tale.

As for me, I'm definitely now in the Christmas spirit. I even managed to nab one of the goody bags (given to kids who get to go on stage). I might be a software engineer/firefighter, but it wasn't long before I found myself writing notes in my new goody-bag jotter complete with multicoloured pen and vibrant pompom on top. I like to think it's quite fetch.

Cinderella runs until January 12 at the Everyman, Regent St, Cheltenham, GL50 1HQ, 01242 572573; everymantheatre.org.uk (And you can already book for next year's Everyman panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, running from November 27, 2020 until January 10, 2021!)

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