REVIEW - Cinderella at the Hackney Empire

The one question on the lips of theatre-goers at Hackney Empire’s Cinderella this week was simple. Would it work without Clive Rowe?

Not only is he the only Olivier Award-nominated pantomime dame, he has become a staple of the show’s success over his past nine appearances - and a major draw out east for the Christmas crowds.

But it had to happen on day. This year Clive Rowe bowed out of the Hackney Empire pantomime is currently treading the boards in The Ladykillers in the West End. Change isn’t bad thing. But it does feel different.

Cinderella is a very traditional fairytale and this production celebrates that with gallons of glitter, shining smiles and audience participation. It is a good one for younger children. But adults are suitably indulged with topical references and hilariously silly jokes in Susie McKenna’s ever wonderful script. Baron Hardup’s Anglo-French exclamations were a particular hit.

The show still boasts many familiar faces – recognition of the family-like spirit of the team. Kat B and Tony Whittle play The Ugly Sisters. And Sharon D. Clarke once again lends her voice to the production’s puppets – this time with the help of The Wire star Clarke Peters.

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It is a long show, however, and at times lingers a little too long on the filler around the story while racing through the good bits. We all know the slipper fits but that’s why we like it.

But strong performances from the likes of Joanna Riding, who made her pantomime debut as The Wicked Stepmother, and Peter Straker - once a good friend of Freddie Mercury - means Rowe isn’t missed. Sophia Ragavelas and Wayne Perrey as the lead lovers have brilliant voices and just the right amount of cheese.

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Everything is polished and professional - more West End than East. But the audience left with the same beaming smiles that the Empire is famous for supplying.

Cinderella runs until January 8 and tickets cost �9.50-�27.50. To book, call 020 8985 2424 or go to

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