Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

A bright-eyed, bushy-tailed panto treat for all the family

Basil Brush with fellow cast members Prince Charming (Mark Adamson), the Fairy Godmother (May McFettridge) and Cinderella (Jayne Wisener)

There is one stellar member of the canid family who isn’t unknown on the small screen, and that’s Basil Brush.

This canny social commentator cum silly joke machine, an urbane fox if you will (Boom! Boom!) took on the role of Baron Brush in Cinderella last night.

OK, it’s stretching the imagination to see the russet one becoming Wisener's Uncle Basil, but ’tis the season to be fanciful.

And the Grand Opera House panto Cinderella was pretty magical at times last night. Imagine a white Pegasus swishing Cinderella off to the ball, and you're there.

We started, naturally, with the other star, one May McFettridge, the granny fairy godmother with pink hair impersonated to perfection by John Linehan.

He insulted the audience with gusto: “Who let the dogs out?” (pot and kettle, May), and provided nice Norn Irish references.

Basil, though, got to do the Never, never, never Ian Paisley gag, but nobody mentioned the F-word (flag).

After a bit of audience interaction — and let's face it, panto's all about unleashing our inner five-year-old — the story continued.

If Prince Charming (Mark Adamson) was a little under-vocal, camp sidekick Dandini (Conleth Kane) more than compensated.

He could sing, dance, flirt with everyone from Basil to the male chorus line.

Jayne Wisener's Cinderella was also a bit of a revelation. She performed well in the traditional scenes involving slippers, and in the non-traditional scenes, too.

The music contained ballads like A Moment Like This and we witnessed a brilliant house number with Basil as resident DJ. But you couldn't help feeling that Baron Brush, who was wheeled on and off like an old episode of Ironside, was slightly underused.

If the Ugly Sisters — Paddy Jenkins and Ciaran Nolan, both old pros, if you see what I mean, and able to retrieve a mislaid wig when necessary — were very cruel. Well, it's the way it's written.

What did the children, the real consumers of an Italian medieval genre, make of it? They loved it, of course, and another generation got to shriek “Oh no she isn't!”

At the end, the happy ending involved a cast of Orangemen and women, but that was just the (surprising) choice of costume colour.

I could have done with fewer fart jokes. But we all need a little sunshine and this Cinderella made us feel some happiness, and cheesy ballads might last well beyond midnight.

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