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I woke up Sunday morning very ill with little enthusiasm and no interest in seeing the panto which I had looked forward to seeing for such a long time. It would have been nothing short of a miracle for Highcliffe to impress me and make me happy again, but I’m delighted to say that, for a few hours at least, I was given that lovely warm theatre feeling you get when watching a great show.

First and foremost, I really must commend the amazing set. From the moment I walked in I was impressed with the backdrop, but as the show continued the different scenes were detailed, beautiful and in some cases even SPARKLY! Cinderella’s carriage was also very impressive. Unfortunately, with such large and detailed sets does come a rather considerable delay in some places to get the next scene ready. The wow factor did outweigh the wait, but in that time the kids in the theatre were starting to get a bit fidgety.

With a strong set must come a strong cast, and Highcliffe Charity Players have some very talented individuals in their team. The chorus were on point throughout the show and it was lovely to see that there was plenty for them to do all the way through. A small shout out to Naomi Mantle who really stood out; she had a perfect smile throughout and her dancing was exemplary.

In the role of Buttons, Charles Michael Duke stole the show completely. With a mix of dry wit and silly humour he was a firm favourite amongst kids and adults alike. He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand the whole way through, a truly memorable performance.

In the role of the sweet, innocent and slightly naïve Cinderella, Charlotte Starr did a marvellous job. At some points you wanted to shake her and get her to stand up to her horrible stepmother, but she didn’t and that made her an even more loveable character.

Jade Morrell in the role of the sassy, Scottish, Fairy Godmother was perfect casting. She played the role to perfection and, in the main, held a perfect Scottish accent the whole way through.

Ellie Tripp was a great panto baddie, evidenced by the very enthusiastic boos from the audience. She was flagged regularly by the horrible duo of Tooti and Frooti. In the role of Tooti, Pete Whittaker was very funny, had great characterisation and I loved his glittery beard; he was matched well with Mike Young in the role of Frooti.

Prince James, played by Matt Jenkins, made a good, slightly arrogant portrayal of the prince. I’m sure all of the men in the audience felt very sorry for him when it became clear all of the women wanted him for his princeliness – and not his mind! I also loved his song ‘Serious’. Barry Gray was paired well with him as the long-suffering Lord Chamberlain.

Not forgetting Stanley Smith, Holly Prince and Laura Lock who were a very amusing Charcuterie-three!

The band were fantastic under the musical direction of Stuart Darling. Also a shout out to the tech team as sound and lighting was perfect.

Whilst I enjoyed the show very much, I found the pyrotechnics were a little bit unnecessary. Had there have been good ventilation in the theatre it would have been fine. However, there wasn’t, and the audience were surrounded by a lot of smoke towards the end of the show, and a burning smell which did distract from the stage slightly. But given that’s my only piece of feedback, I’d still call the show a triumph.

Thank you to all for an enjoyable afternoon. I wish you the best of luck with the rest of your run; if you want to go and see it, there will be performances every evening this week and two on Saturday. The kids will love it, and the adults will enjoy it too!