Hackney Empire pantomime - Cinderella

Dame Clive Rowe may be bowing out of the Hackney Empire’s festive feast but this year’s production of Cinderella is just the ticket for award-winning West End star Joanna Riding who will be making her pantomime debut.

Lines are being polished, the stage is being set and the glass slipper is getting one final shine before the opening of Hackney Empire’s much-loved pantomime.

Writer and director Susie McKenna and composer Steven Edis return to the Mare Street theatre with a production of Cinderella, which opens for previews on November 26.

There will be many familiar faces – such as Kat B and Tony Whittle as The Ugly Sisters – but there is one dame-shaped hole in the form of Clive Rowe, who is taking a year out after nine Hackney pantomimes and is currently appearing in The Ladykillers at the Gielgud Theatre.

The show will, however, see the pantomime debut of West End star Joanna Riding in the role of the Wicked Stepmother. She is no stranger to the Empire though.

“I have seen the Hackney Empire pantomime with my own children three times.” she said. “People speak about it in very reverent terms and it’s often cited as a cut above the rest. So if I was going to do pantomime this is the one to do.

“It’s an enormous amount of fun. Rehearsals are very relaxed and it’s a friendly bunch of people.

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“It’s a bit like being invited to the best Christmas party around.”

The double Laurence Olivier Award winner, who has previously taken leading roles in Billy Elliot The Musical and My Fair Lady among others, said the Empire’s darling dame Clive is still playing an honorary part in the pantomime – there is a picture of him with a moveable mouth in the rehearsal studio.

She let slip about a couple of the show’s festive treats, including references to pop star Lady Gaga. “She’s a little pantomime in herself.”

But most of all she said she was looking forward to getting on the stage.

“It’s delicious playing the baddy – to be able to be absolutely vile to everyone. I can play it really big, that’s the fun of pantomime.”

Sophia Ragavelas stars as Cinderella and Wayne Perry is Prince Charming. Cinderella runs until January 8 and tickets cost �9.50-�27.50.

n To book, call 020 8985 2424 or go to www.hackneyempire.co.uk.

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