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KentOnline reviews the Cinderella pantomime at the Rylance Theatre in Ashford

For the past three years, reporter Liane Castle has got her pantomime fix at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, but this Christmas season she gave Ashford’s offering a try, and was won over by two ugly stepsisters, ironically named Beyonce and Shakira…

I was initially sceptical as to whether Blue Pheonix Productions could pull off their Cinderella at the Rylance Theatre, given the small size of the venue, but with a ‘bibbidi-bobbidi-boo’, my worries were zapped away.

Paul Ketley and Rob Hancox played the ugly step sisters Beyonce and Shakira
Paul Ketley and Rob Hancox played the ugly step sisters Beyonce and Shakira

The rags to riches tale felt more intimate at the Towers School venue, and allowed for natural audience interaction, due to the close proximity to the actors, who had the families howling with laughter at points.

The whole cast was full of energy, encouraging the audience to get involved in the classic ‘oh no it isn’t’ moments.

But the ugly stepsisters Beyonce and Shakira, played by Paul Ketley and Rob Hancox, were the stars of the show with their questionable antics and fashion choices.

The Fairy Godmother played by Stephanie Coates had a powerhouse voice and the energy of Buttons played by Kent actor Josh Boorer kept the younger members of the audience alert throughout.

Performances of Cinderella run until December 29
Performances of Cinderella run until December 29

Cinderella had everything you would expect from a pantomime, with cheesy jokes and plenty of local knowledge thrown in.

The theatre had been transformed not by a fairy godmother but hard-working staff, and the set design was impressive, the backdrops detailed.

The only thing I found disappointing was a mishap with the curtains during the big reveal of Cinderella’s carriage.

They didn't quite open as they were supposed to, giving us half a view of the vehicle and an awkward moment of silence.

But it wouldn't be panto without something going wrong and the cast handled it well, with the issue quickly rectified by stage staff.

Charley Bryne played Dandini, Prince Charming’s valet
Charley Bryne played Dandini, Prince Charming’s valet

During the interval, the family behind me laughed about how funny the stepsisters were, while another said, “It’s really good actually, I’d definitely come here again”.

And I agree, I would go again too.

You get all the classic traits of a high-energy production on a smaller, more intimate scale, without the crowds and the traffic at the end.

It could certainly give the well-known, spacey Marlowe Theatre a run for its money.

A mixture of morning, afternoon, and evening shows are running throughout the school holidays until December 30.

Some of the shows have already sold out but tickets are still available from £17 for an adult, and £15 for a child.

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