06/12/2019 Mary Collins
It’s that time of the year when the Expat community don their striped stockings and jingle bell hats to bring the general public a traditional British Pantomime.
"Pantomime (informally panto) is a type of musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is still performed throughout the United Kingdom and (to a lesser extent) in other English-speaking countries, especially during the Christmas and New Year season. Modern pantomime includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy and dancing. It employs gender-crossing actors and combines topical humour with a story more or less based on a well-known fairy tale, fable or folk tale. It is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers". Wiki
Cinderella is a well-known fairy-tale that has variations from around the world and dates to around 7BC in ancient Egypt/Greece. "The first literary European version of the story was published in Italy by Giambattista Basile in his Pentamerone in 1634; the version that is now most widely known in the English-speaking world was published in French by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697. Another version was later published by the Brothers Grimm in their folk tale collection Grimms' Fairy Tales in 1812." Wiki
The main theme of the tale is of oppression and the neglect of a young girl who is plagued by tough circumstances but eventually all is put right.
The opening scenes welcome some of the adorable supporting characters, The God Fairy (a rather goofy one), Cinderella’s friend/sidekick "Buttons" who has something to say in almost every scene and says it well, a couple of characters who will serve as mice and later footmen for the magical pumpkin carriage and an entourage of brightly dressed dancers and singers who will get you into that jovial panto mood.
As the scenes unfold, you are treated to the "Evil Step Mother" who isn’t as evil but more 'Harley St housewife', Cinderella’s Father who is struggling to cope with his wife and stepdaughter's lifestyles, and those gregarious “Ugly Step Sisters” who light up the stage with their over-the-top hilarious characters.
Charming’s father, "The King", has a wonderful bellowing voice that brings Shakespearian exaggeration. There are also a couple of characters who attend to The King and Prince Charming and who play well with expressions and some very funny mocking voices and attitude’s. Prince Charming who is a perfect gentlewoman (classic panto cross dressing!) is very much into fitness and "himself". And of course, the lovely Cinderella who plays Charming well, pardon my pun, and wows us with her beautiful voice.
The modern take on "Cinderella" has its twists and surprises and is full of laughs and irony as one could mirror themselves with addiction to social media and the usual trends that mesmerize us (at least till that next big thing).
The costumes, as expected in a Panto, are colourful and full of variety. There is a live band who are truly under-used especially as they would do well as a filler during scene changes. You are provided (upon entry) a sheet of paper, with music lyrics so that you have no excuse not to participate!
The cast is a variety of children and adults, and with their smiling faces, pretty costumes and “on key” vocals, it is quite easy to be enthusiastic with their “sing-a-longs”. As with all pantos you are encouraged to heckle and respond to the bodacious denials of “No its not/Yes it is”, and there is an opportunity to be involved in a little romp up on stage, and no that’s meant innocently enough, but yes, definitely a play with words (always expected in Pantos) appealing to all ages and with layered meanings for those who understand "tongue in cheek” expressions.
There is a lot of lively dancing and songs, and of course more outlandish characters who shine the brightest through their witty one liners, and over the top expressions. The set design works for the performance with a minor let down due to lack of lighting at the front of the stage in various scenes, which is important especially as solo or duo songs would be nicer if the actors were drowned less in darkness and more in the “bright lights" they deserve.
Panto should have you cringing over cheesy one liners, singing along to whimsical lyrics, thoroughly enjoying satire, and letting in that warm, fuzzy holiday feeling, preferable to the annoying fuzzy itchy Christmas sweater you might choose to wear to this. Let “Cinderella” take priority, with reckless abandon and enjoy!
The Step Sisters -Fanny - Scott Holland,Polly - Peter Sandbach Prince Charming - Lucy Hutchinson Cinderella - Jessica Russell Baron Hardup - Steve Oliver Baroness Hardup - Sarah Thomforde Twinkle - Cathy Barker King - Richard Brown Buttons - Noam Burger Sir Cumference - Catherin Mehl Marquis de Bonbon - Miriam Cohn Paragraph - Catarina Fontoura Mr. Bear - Amy Brice Philly - Francesca Perruccio Musketeer - Adam Maghout Hussar - Elise Van Dyke
The performance will run from the 6th of December-9th of December (more information below) and The Theatre Scala is located at: Friei Strasse 89, 4051 Basel.
“Proceeds from ticket sales will go to support the Starehe Girl's Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.”
Photographs- by Mary Collins.