Cinderella and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Trees, Theatre503. © Jack Sain (9)As panto season is about to get into full swing, oh yes it is, children and adults flock to the theatre to be entertained by men wearing tights, talking cows and a whole lot of thigh slapping, for THE event of the festive season.

But for all of the Aladdin’s, Dick Wittington’s and Snow White’s you’ve seen year after year, the clever chaps at Sleeping Trees have brought a uniquely original production of Cinderella and the Beanstalk to Theatre503, that incorporates all three and many more with appearances from Rumpelstiltskin, the Little Mermaid and Hansel and Gretel.

It begins with three actors, James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua George Smith and John Woodburn, introducing the show to all of the boys and girls and as we wait in anticipation for the opening scene, it appears the cast of 40 actors haven’t been booked… So as to not disappoint the audience the guys decide to take on the roles themselves and there ensues a highly energetic, chaotic, gloriously funny performance that hugely entertains and brings this fairytale to life.

The humour is largely slapstick and wonderfully silly that could have verged on a little OTT but director Tom Attenborough tightly reigns it in ensuring the comic timing is spot on and punchy. It caters to both children and adults alike from references to eighties films and a few innuendos to adapting Frozen’s ‘Love is an Open Door’ to apply to a Wickes brochure. Genius. There’s also the audience participation in a two minute remake of Home Alone, but I won’t say any more.

The music is delivered by composer Mark Newnham, the only crew member they remembered to hire and it’s a good job they did. As well as providing the sound effects and score, Newnham later comes in handy as he doubles up as a special ‘festive’ member of the cast and equally brings great humour to the role as the apprehensive musician.

The talented actors take on the roles of each character with such ease, from the addition of piece of clothing to a mannerism, it’s easy to recognise the role they’re playing and makes for a particularly skilled scene where they must play each fairytale character in quick succession. Their energy is infectious and despite the age of most of the audience, everyone participated and leapt to their feet with real gusto and enthusiasm.

Cinderella and the Beanstalk has all the characteristics of a true panto, but offers a hugely refreshing take that will have you laughing out loud. It’s lighthearted and family friendly so if you do see one panto this year, don’t be a Scrooge and make sure Theatre503 is on your list and get into the festive spirit.

Reviewed by Becky Usher
Photo: Jack Sain

Cinderella and the Beanstalk runs until 2 January 2016 at Theatre503

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