The release of Disney’s Encanto ignited a passion for the sounds, colours, and storytelling of Latin America. This festive season, The Theatre Chipping Norton bring this to their unique twist on the traditional pantomime Cinderella, relocating the story to a small town nestled in a lush rainforest.
The inhabitants of Santa Maria de las Orejas de Soplillo (St Maria with the sticky out ears) are accepting of everyone, the energetic opening number setting the scene for the positive messaging that’s threaded throughout this joyful family panto.
Written and directed by John Terry, this Cinderella story replaces the Prince with Don Francisco, or Chico to his friends, the heir of a coffee bean plantation. Our heroine’s father ran the neighbouring banana plantation, but it’s now in the hands of her stepmother Elsa, and step sisters Quosimoda and Adnausea. The thrust of the story remains the same with Buttons on hand to aid Cinderella while setting up a delivery service as a side hustle.
What is very clear is how hard the theatre have worked to incorporate the culture of the Global South into the production; and it’s more than just the authentic decorations that adorn the bar and foyer. There’s a majority Latinx cast, and with Mariana Aristizábal Pardo as assistant director and Dramaturg, the world created on stage feels reflective of the places which have inspired it.
Ainy Medina is a fantastic Cinderella, and there’s a lovely chemistry between Medina’s Cinders and Fabian Soto Pacheco’s Chico. Renan Teodoro cajoles the audience, particularly the younger ones, into shouting out and singing along, while Pepa Duarte succeeds in both the role of wicked step mother and this version’s fairy godmother – Madre Monte.
Sophie Molyneux’s vibrant and colourful costumes, particularly for the step sisters (played with wonderful wit by Ian Crowe and Laura Gómez Gracia), look fantastic, and continue the themes of Pip Leckenby’s bright set design. The relocation of the action doesn’t take away from the traditions of panto and everything we Brits love about the genre, from the innuendo for the adults, to the sing-along for the kids, it’s all here in an abundance of fun.
Rebecca Applin and Eliane Correa’s music is wonderfully catchy, and sound incredible under the musical direction of Archie Combe. These are lively songs which again reflects the Latin American culture while continuing to reinforce those positive messages. If anything, we could do with a few more songs in this Cinderella as the audience were clearly enjoying what they heard.
Joining the professional actors are a small, but super talented, young cast (The Pippins) who perform their roles with gusto. Everyone on stage is clearly enjoying themselves and it’s not surprising because with this Cinderella the Theatre Chipping Norton are reinventing panto traditions for the diverse world we live in. On the whole this is a fun and well made panto that audiences will go bananas for.
Cinderella is at The Theatre Chipping Norton until 14th January 2024.