Review: CINDERELLA – Theatre Royal Stratford East

Theatre Royal Stratford East,

Forget the Olympics and the giant shopping centre, Theatre Royal Stratford East is a gem in the middle of Stratford. It has an illustrious past and, from what I saw on Wednesday night, its future is guaranteed.

Cinderella by Trish Cooke and Robert Hyman is all that a panto should be and more. From the opening of Buttons (Stephen Lloyd) asking for audience participation to the packed house, the theatre-goer knows that there are not going to be any crying or fretful children, as their joyful shouts and giggles filled the theatre.

This Olivier-nominated production of Cinderella (with a twist) zips along more seamlessly than most Christmas fairytales. The characters instantly made an impression on even the smallest children present; for some, it must have been their first theatre experience.

Something that this theatre does well is to reflect the audience, and with its multi-ethnic cast, urban slang, modern cultural references and jokes that worked on everyone's level it was more inclusive than any panto I can remember seeing. There's no sagging, no protracted "he's behind you" although, of course, you are thanked when you do warn the impish heroine that someone's about to creep up on her. I'd not heard so many
children engage with a cast before, other than the standard boo and hiss. "You're mean!" one five year old yelled, drawing a wink from the evil baroness .

The first half sets the scene, with original music and a sparkling set, but it was but a warm up for the main event which really kicked off after the interval with giant glitter balloons surfing the crowd.

It's hard to single out any of the performers as they all shone. For me, the sight of Michael Bertenshaw rocking a red ballgown was a bonus, but I also loved Shelley Williams' Queen who couldn't wait to be free of her royal restrictions.

The singalong was fun, leading to all the loose ends being tied up for the rousing finale. There was a message too, for those who looked for one: be true to yourself, and don't follow the crowd.

If you live in the area, and even if you don't, and you have children, I suggest you show them a production that will stay in their memory for many years to come.

Cinderella plays at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford, London E15 1BN until 21 January. Tickets £6-£22 from

Reviewed by Jude East