Pantomime: Blue Peter legend Peter Duncan is nippy and nasty as an ugly sister... don't miss Cinderella, streaming now
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The sprighty 67-year-old, still known to run the odd marathon, has always been a bit of an action man and when the pandemic lock down struck last winter, he sprang into action, not just writing but directing, starring in and producing Jack and the Beanstalk, a hybrid filmed pantomime, shot on location in and around his home and back garden.
It was supposed to be a one-off, until it proved so popular that cinemas started screening it and so, Peter is back and this time with the most magical panto of them all. I was given a sneak preview.
Now, while the fairy tale may be called Cinderella, the title character may indeed bear that name, and the story be very much hers and hers alone (how she eschews the love of her devoted Buttons in favour of a charming prince), when you take Charles Perrault's age-old story into the world of panto, it becomes all about the Ugly Sisters. Get them right and you have a hit on your hands. The casting, traditionally men play the characters, is everything. The roles have to be cross-cast to imbue the characters with the required grotesqueness that make them at once evil while comically unthreatening.
Boasting its origins in Perrault's Cendrillon, which was first published in 1697 and predated by sixth century Greek and ninth century Chinese variations on the theme, Cinderella like most fairy tales has a darkness at its heart - executed properly, that’s what the Ugly Sisters bring to Cinderella.
It’s something Peter understands as he and his side-kick, Adam Price, deliver a comic master-class as gloriously boo-able Uglies that both are brilliantly nippy and nasty.
Their interactions with other characters and the viewer - this panto might be filmed but that doesn't mean there's no audience participation, oh, yes there is! - are pitch perfect and superbly matched by Lucy Jane Quinlan's fiery and feisty, yet fragile, Cinders.
Also bringing their slapstick and clowning expertise to the production are Ian Talbot who makes a loveable grumpy Baron, a man with a twinkle never far from his eye, and Henry Roadnight, whose pathos tugs at the heart-strings while his high-energy physicality is sure to endear him to any kids viewing.
Snappy songs, some with hilarious laugh out loud lyrics, hit all the right notes and joyous storytelling cast their spell as this family favourite romps along with infectious bonhomie.
A magical pantomime with a message for today and laced with all the traditional trimmings, this Cinderella gives you a great big hug and leaves you smiling - there's even a song-sheet, just remember to bring your own sweeties. It's five stars from me.
So, if you’re not quite ready to venture out for a night at the theatre, this could be the answer if you still want your annual panto fix – it will be available to stream and watch in the comfort of your home from December 1, just go to https://www.pantoonline.co.uk/