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‘Ugly’ Sisters? They’re sexy and they know it…

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I love a good panto, me. In fact, I thought I loved panto more than my children did – until I witnessed my 4-year-old daughter yelling “behind you!” at the very top of her voice and dancing her socks (or was it her glass slippers?) off in the aisle during Hertford Theatre’s Cinderella.

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My 11 year old was gutted that he was away freezing his woggle off at Scout camp instead, but my daughter and I quite enjoyed the whole girls-night-out vibe and not having to share our popcorn with a ravenous wannabe-teenager. And we got into the panto mood perfectly as soon as we got to the theatre – the lobby is decorated with sparkly shoes hanging from the ceiling, and it’s all very glittery and fun.

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One of the best things for me was that it was a proper professional cast – but not an ooo-look-it’s-him-off-the-telly assortment – so the performances were slick and spot on. It was a brilliant all-round evening: great sets , fabulous costumes (the Ugly Sisters in their cupcake and doughnut ball dresses were stunning) with loads of proper panto fun – heaps of singing, dancing, booing, cheering – and all ending up in a great big final number.

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Hertford Theatre, built in the 1970s – all plate glass and sharp corners– and has been recently refurbished inside. It’s right in the centre of the town, with a little bar / coffee shop as well as an atrium that hosts art exhibitions, a dance studio that’s used for all kinds of classes and the River Room, which gets used for meetings and parties and so on. It’s a lovely small theatre – just 400 seats – and for our panto night that meant we felt right up there with action. I’d not been before, but I’m already leafing through next year’s listings to see what else is coming.

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The Ugly Sisters, Olga and Polga, completely stole the show and were properly hilarious. I was laughing embarrassingly loudly at their version of “I’m sexy and I know it” early on – but they managed to top that in the second half with “Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight” aimed at poor old Prince Charming, and then again with “You’re the one that I want” sung to some hapless dad they fished from the audience. (Realised, too, that one of them is the short-sighted Zumba instructor from the Specsavers advert – you know, the one that gets all the old folk up and dancing?)

The fairy godmother – the not-very-sparkly Fairy Mary Tannenbaum – kept reminding me of someone, so no surprise that she’s been touring her one-woman Bette Middler tribute show for the last few years. She was more feisty wood-sprite-in-camouflage than glittery godmother, but she brought a whole lot of character to the proceedings – no airy-fairy wand-waving for her!

The sets were utterly gorgeous. The choice of the Vienna Woods as the setting was great, with lots very human-like trees and sparkly bits round the edges. The little painted caravan in which Cinderella lived with the father, step-sisters and Buttons – who was very lovable and got a great rapport going with the audience – must have been Tardis-like in dimensions, but was very pretty to look at.

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The production used the aisles to full effect as well. My four-year-old had eyes like dinner plates when she looked up and realised Cinderella, newly-transformed with ballgown and fur-trimmed cloak, was standing right there next to her. She wasn’t quite so impressed when Prince Charming – or PC, as they called him – turned up later on, but hey ho. I didn’t mind the very close proximity of a chap in uniform one bit.

It was fairly long – 2 hours and 15 minutes – but my 4 year old didn’t even notice the time, and couldn’t wait to get back to her seat after the interval. Tickets start from £14, with a family ticket for four at £56 – and it was definitely a great family night out. It’s just started this weekend, and the run only goes until New Years Day. Worth booking, for sure – if just for those Ugly Sisters.

The Wash, Hertford, SG14 1PS, 01992 531593, hertfordtheatre.com

 

Thanks to Jamie Scott-Smith at tenbyeight.co.uk for the fab photos.

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