Double the Laughs with Cinderella!
Iain Lauchlan as 'Dame Flatula'. Photo © Nicola Young.
Cinderella by Iain Lauchlan at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, in association with Imagine Theatre Ltd. Running from Wednesday 22 November 2023 to Saturday 13 January 2024.
Review by Ann Evans.
It’s double the trouble, double the laughs and double the mayhem when Ugly Sisters Dame Flatula (Iain Lauchlan) and Dame Aroma (Andy Hockley) return home to Hard Up Hall from a rock festival – kitted out in style and still rockin’. But now this dynamic duo of Dames are on the look-out for boyfriends – and no eligible male in the audience is safe! So be warned!
Iain Lauchlan as 'Dame Flatula' and Andy Hockley as 'Aroma'. Photo © Nicola Young.
It’s a great atmosphere in the Belgrade from the very start. The audience knows it’s in good hands with another panto written, directed and starring Iain Lauchlan, after all he’s been entertaining audiences at the Belgrade for 30 plus years, not to mention all the television and theatre work and award-winning productions he’s achieved throughout his career of writer, director, producer and actor. A career that spans some 48 years.
Holly Topping as 'Cinderella' and Craig Hollingsworth as 'Buttons'. Photo © Nicola Young.
There’s hilarity from the very start. Flatula’s sister, Aroma is played brilliantly by Andy Hockley – another very experienced actor with a long and impressive career to his name. Andy has played in everything from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to Cameron Mackintosh’s The Phantom of the Opera. This is his 18th pantomime at the Belgrade – his first was with Iain Lauchlan 33 years ago!
Flatula and Aroma make for a duo of deplorable Dames who take delight in making the lovely Cinderella’s life a misery. This is Holly Topping’s professional debut at the Belgrade as Cinderella having graduated in 2023 from Italia Conti Academy. Without a shadow of a doubt her debut is a huge success – Holly is enchanting as Cinderella and wins the audience’s hearts as well as the dashing Prince’s – and Button’s, of course who still holds onto the dream that one day she will fall in love with him.
Craig Hollingsworth as 'Buttons'. Photo © Nicola Young.
It wouldn’t be a Belgrade panto without Craig Hollingsworth, who plays Buttons. This is his 12th year running as the comic in the Belgrade panto, and the welcoming cheer from the audience as he first appears shows that appreciation. When Craig isn’t performing for Coventry audiences, he’s writing, acting and producing shows in theatres all over the country as well as working in TV and running his own events company.
Loren Sunni as 'Dandini' and Letitia Hector as 'Prince'. Photo © Nicola Young.
As Buttons – and in fact whichever character Craig Hollingsworth plays, he performs brilliantly, drawing the audience into the fun with an effortless kind of charm and energetic enthusiasm that comes so naturally to him.
The other cast members are a real delight too. Excellent performances by Emma Mulkern who switches from the good and gentle Fairy Godmother (and all her guises) to the brash and bossy Wicked Stepmother. There must be some very swift costume changes behind the scenes!
Emma Mulkern as 'Fairy God Mother'. Photo © Nicola Young.
Lovely acting and singing too from Letitia Hector who plays the Prince, and Loren Sunni playing Dandini. Gorgeous costumes too. There’s an excellent ensemble including the little ones, who entertained with their singing and dancing, with choreography by Jenny Phillips with assistant choreographer Vicki Stevenson. Musical Director is Hayley Gibbs, musicians are Spencer Hedges (drums) and Chris Jones (bass guitarist). Must mention too the technicians, designers and set builders for their impressive scenery and special effects. Cinderella's carriage got its own round of applause!
Cinderella ensemble. Photo © Nicola Young.
Another special mention to the team in charge of costumes, which are spectacular. Costume Designer is James Maciver with an additional team of costume makers. Cinderella’s dress is dazzling and as for Flatula and Aroma’s glittering outfits in the final scene, they are truly works of art!
Holly Topping as 'Cinderella' and Letitia Hector as 'Prince'. Photo © Nicola Young.
As always, a fabulous traditional panto – colourful, hilarious, filled with wonderful characters, music, song and dance. Lots and lots of audience participation, some messy slapstick, a great ‘ghostly’ ‘he’s behind you’ scene, and everything we’ve come to expect in a Belgrade pantomime!
If you haven't already got your tickets, get them soon! https://www.belgrade.co.uk/events/cinderella/