THEATRE REVIEW: It’s a laugh minute as Westfield Folkhouse cast serve up a panto to remember

Westfield Folkhouse's 2016 panto Cinderella
Westfield Folkhouse's 2016 panto Cinderella

Christmas maybe a distant memory, but the panto season was brought back to life with this superb adaptation of Cinderella.

The 76th panto put on by the Westfield Folkhouse was yet another rib-tickler to remember and one packed with slapstick comedy capers, dazzling costumes and stunning sets.

Directed by Folkhouse stalwart Brandon Stafford, we followed the love story of Cinderella and Prince Charming - or was it Lord Dandini? - and its twists and turns on the way to an eventual happy ending.

I ask was it Lord Dandini because the pair swapped identities to help Prince Charming find love - which he certainly did.

A firm hit with the packed audience were the double acts of the hapless palace guards Barry Broken (Stafford) and Freddie Flat (Dave Gell) and the hilariously named ugly sisters, Hernia (Paul Shepherd) and Nausea (Martin Belcher).

Stafford’s opening scene set the tone for the panto, dashing onto the stage ringing a bell and bellowing ‘sorry I can’t hear you, I’ve got something ringing in my ear’. The audience were in stitches, and this continued throughout.

The loud and brash sisters’ flamboyant, colourful costumes definitely set them apart - ghastly yes, memorable yes, but certainly not appropriate to woo the dashing prince they had set their eyes on.

In contrast, Cinderella - played by Martha Harris - graced the stage in more downtrodden attire until her moment in the spotlight when she shone at the ball. There was plenty of ‘oh yes he is’ and ‘oh no he isn’t’ moments for the audience to enjoy - as well as lots of song and dance in between scenes.

Jono Wilson was superb as the browbeaten Baron Hardup - Cinderella’s father - and the new hubby to the cold-hearted Baroness Hardup (Christine Oscroft).

The set was stunning and a highlight shortly before the interval was when Cinderella was whisked away to the ball in a magical horse-drawn carriage which rose high above the stage. Simply stunning.

Special mention should also go to the dancers who lit up the panto - led this year by choreographer Susan Shaw, who herself is a former Folkhouse panto dancer and has worked alongside elite stars such as Take That, Madonna and One Direction.

Once again, I came away thinking I had seen a panto performed by a cast of professionals - that’s how good this slick, laugh-a-minute production was.

Inside the programme, the welcome notes ended with the words ‘sit back and enjoy the show!’

And we most certainly did . . .