I’ve just seen the worse Christmas panto ever but still had a good time. This Cinderella – sold as ‘a one stop shop for a Christmas night out: a panto set in a pub, plus karaoke’ – was a shambles, but a funny shambles, writes Michael Holland.

Because the set was a pub where the audience could buy drinks – with the cast mingling and drinking alongside us – it was difficult to know when the panto actually begun. Mike, a burly lad in a short gold lamé dress, came round taking names and choices for the Karaoke session, so Fiona, my panto companion, put us down for a couple of songs.

Then a man in a dog suit onesie came over, called me ‘ugly’ and hit me over the head with the plastic leg he’d been carrying in his mouth. Next to approach our table was Simone, the twin sister of Garfunkel, who took my name down for being a ‘naughty boy’. The IPA helped me through all this.

Without really knowing what was going on, this was all very amusing until in amongst the mayhem someone shouted out for Cinderella! A girl, who had been next to me at the bar just a few minutes earlier, appeared and was promptly told to clean up the pub. We realised the panto had started, although we did not know precisely when it had. 

The madness continued. The man in the onesie was Buttons – a smelly, suicidal dog; Simone and Garfunkel were the Ugly Sisters; their mother was Judy Garland and had actually served me a couple of pints just a while before she turned up and started to berate her put upon daughter Cinderella; Mike was the Dame as well as a barman(or barmaid…), and we had a rather quirky Prince Charming turn up to seek a wife that fit into his dead nan’s old slippers. A pub pretty much like most of the Wetherspoons I’ve frequented, so I felt at home.

With more Karaoke than narrative going on, and audience participation designed to embarrass, I worked out some similarities to the traditional Cinderella story, but not many. The twins tried to force their feet into Prince Charming’s nan’s orthopaedic slipper, without any luck, and when Cinderella’s foot slipped in quite easily he promptly proposed, only to be told to ‘Eff off!’

So nothing conventional about this panto. 

Afterwards, with mum and her daughters all back behind the bar, I soon had the inebriated crowd on their feet with my rendition of Play That Funky Music White Boy, before Fiona performed a duet with Transvestite Mike. Alas, their attempt at ‘I Got You, Babe’, didn’t arouse the same reception as mine. You can’t win ‘em all, they say, and this version of Cinderella will, I think, receive a similar response.

The Vaults, Launcelot Street, London SE1 7AD until 12 Jan 2020. Times: Tuesday to Sunday 7.30pm plus matinees at 3.30pm (varies over Christmas – see website)

Admission: £20 – £35. Phone: 0844 815 7141


Photos: Geraint Lewis