Cinderella and Prince Charming shall go to the ball this holiday season as South Hill Park creates on stage magic and splendour that will have you on the edge of your seat.Joyce Branagh, who returns to The Wilde Theatre for her fourth consecutive year, has created an original adaption of the Cinderella panto this year. 

Reporter Nicole McBride went along to see how the show combines the traditional structure of the Cinderella story with Branagh’s own unique flair of panto banter and charm.


The adaption brings the audience right into the 21st century creating both a timely and relatable spin on a well-worn tale with plenty of 'Bracknellisms' along the way.

I was transported to the hallowed halls of ‘Hard-up Hotel’ where Cinderella (Ellen Faye) and her trusty side kick Buttons (Michael Ayiotis) can be seen sweeping up the mess, checking in guests, and trying to avoid her wicked stepmother and stepsisters.

Think Faulty Towers meets panto land.


The cast this year has outperformed themselves yet again, and after the successful run of Aladdin in 2019 a few of their performers have returned for another season.

In particular, Ayiotis and Ellen appear to have become ones to watch at South Hill Park.

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With his naughty sense of humour, his boisterous ego and the gift of great adlibbing, Artois had the audience in the palm of his hand every step of the way. The same could be said about Ellen as she charmed the crowd into submission with her natural beauty and crystal-clear vocals.

Beth Bradley (Grace Less) and Paul Toulson (Hope Less) wowed the audience as the ugly sister double act, taking the age-old audience participation to a new level.

Hats off to audience member ‘Dave’ on this particular night who experienced their ‘flirting’ expertise first hand! For any man who is brave enough to venture into the stalls, make sure you come with an open mind, your favourite Christmas jumper and some killer dance moves. You'll need them!

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Credit must also be given to the versatile and talented Jacqueline Tate who takes on two roles, as both Cinderella’s fairy god mother and her evil ‘Ruth Less’ stepmother, both helping and hindering Cinderella in the search for her happily ever after. 

Tate's depiction of the soft-spoken Scottish god mother was such a contrast to her stepmother’s menace, that the vendetta to hurt Cinderella seemed nastier than usual.

Although Cinderella and Prince Charming are the main love interests in the traditional story, as a theatre lover myself I have always been more curious to find out if the loveable ‘Buttons’ will ever find his ‘happily ever after’. 

Therefore, the awkwardly charming exchanges between Buttons and Deeny (Aaliya Bhatti) could almost made my heart melt.

No-one however has been cast better in this year’s pantomime than the delectable and desirable Prince Charming. His stunning vocals and rather naughty dance moves had the ladies in the crowd singing a happy tune by the time the curtain dropped.

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The vibrancy that the principal performers bring to the stage is something that would be expected in much grander venues and is only amplified as the junior ensemble join them. All 36 members of the ensemble take physical comedy within the dance numbers to another level. Using the slight nuances and small details in the scenes to leave the audience in stitches.

Even the clunkiest of movements are choreographed perfectly and slight mis-steps and blunders styled out! As they say in panto; ‘If in doubt, style it out.’

 The show runs from November 26 to January 3. Visit South Hill Park Arts Centre for more details and to book your tickets.