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Canterbury: Review of the Marlowe Theatre pantomime, Cinderella

By Angela Cole

It's been record breaking for years, with record audiences and rave reviews. But the question is: can the Marlowe Theatre keep it up?

This year's panto, Cinderella, was produced by the same team - Evolution Pantomimes - for the 10th consecutive year at the Canterbury theatre, and stars regulars Canterbury's dame Ben Roddy, Margate's Lloyd Hollett and Gillingham's Mister Maker, Phil Gallagher, as Buttons.

There is now a heavy weight of expectation on Paul Hendy and wife Emily, who run Evolution, to produce a massive Christmas hit.

The cast of Cinderella at the Marlowe Theatre Picture: Pamela Raith
The cast of Cinderella at the Marlowe Theatre Picture: Pamela Raith

With the same team in charge, you could be forgiven for expecting that it might have been the same gags with a slightly different set and plot.

And while some of the set pieces are in the same vein, that's tradition - there's the Sheppey Joke, this year joined by the Chatham Joke and the Margate Joke, along with many references to Gravesend, as former EastEnder Harry Reid (Dandini) lives there - catchphrases, such as "It's the law" and a Punometer quick-fire sequence with pictures on cards, this year featuring 35 Disney character jokes, including the Lidl Mermaid. Not forgetting, of course, the obligatory ghost scene.

Ugly Sisters Lloyd Hollett (left) and Ben Roddy in Cinderella
Ugly Sisters Lloyd Hollett (left) and Ben Roddy in Cinderella

Ugly Sisters Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett were a show-stealing pair, with ever-expanding costumes, and great gags, the funniest of which may not have been planned, but was the epitome of comic timing.

There was a guest spot for Paul O'Grady and Fairy Godmother Sally Lindsay was a high-flying, tipsy fairy to enjoy.

Sally Lindsay in Cinderella at the Marlowe Theatre Picture: Pamela Raith
Sally Lindsay in Cinderella at the Marlowe Theatre Picture: Pamela Raith

The producers had come up with new and ingenious ways to use the theatre space - a number of things came from above during the evening, some of which were surprising to say the least, and there was a spell binding aerial performance by dancers Duo Fusion.

Click here for details of all Kent's pantos this Christmas.

Gags covered all ages, with the kids in the audience particularly loving the Fortnight reference, and there was a special treat which brought "oohs" from the whole auditorium before the interval - but I won't spoil it by telling you what it was.

There was also some great music numbers including dancing and singing from Harry Reid with Boom! Shake the Room, and Cinderella's beautiful This Is Me from The Greatest Showman.

Harry Reid gets everyone dancing in Cinderella at the Marlowe Theatre Picture: Pamela Raith
Harry Reid gets everyone dancing in Cinderella at the Marlowe Theatre Picture: Pamela Raith

For me, however, the performance of the night came from one that might normally be overlooked. Phil Gallagher's Buttons was the glue holding the show together, but it was much more than that. Never before has a Buttons shown such emotion for being friend zoned by Cinderella, to the point where I think most of the audience wanted to, like me, give him a cuddle and take him home. An imagined sequence of him marrying Cinderella was pure gold.

Phil Gallagher (Mister Maker) as Buttons in Cinderella at the Marlowe Theatre Picture: Pamela Raith
Phil Gallagher (Mister Maker) as Buttons in Cinderella at the Marlowe Theatre Picture: Pamela Raith

If the old gags don't amuse you any more, you'll be pleased to hear I don't remember one "He's behind you" in the whole show.

But when it comes to new and fresh ways to make you laugh, while keeping in with tradition, they've kept up their end of the bargain - a massive Christmas hit is surely on the cards again. Oh yes it is!

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