Pantomime Review: Buttons: A Cinderella Story, King’s Head, Islington

Buttons offers a hilarious take on the story of Cinderella. Picture: Bill Knight

Buttons offers a hilarious take on the story of Cinderella. Picture: Bill Knight - Credit: Archant

A riotous, innuendo-laden reworking of the classic fairytale will have you laughing out loud.

John Savournin in Buttons

John Savournin in Buttons - Credit: Archant

After last year’s Egyptian panto, Charles Court Opera return to the King’s Head with an inventive and brilliantly-performed reworking of the classic Cinderella that’s so full of innuendo it makes the saucy exuberance of Carry On films seem prudish.

The central story is of Cinderella’s best friend, the anguished, tubby teddy bear Buttons.

Secretly in love with Cinderella (the appropriately angelic Eleanor Sanderson-Nash) Buttons wishes he could become a real boy. Cinderella has no ugly sisters or evil stepmother but lives with lusty ‘mumsy’ Betty (John Savournin, also CCO’s Artistic Director), in the idyllic village of Bush-Hole-under-Thong – oh yes she does – where the main pastime is milking cows or creaming buns. Cinderella dreams of being swept away by a handsome prince. When one does turn up, Cinders is willfully blind to his faults: a Gaston-like arrogance, dastardly plan to woo her to stave off a witch’s spell and tricky temper (played to perfection by Jennie Jacobs).

So Buttons the lonely teddy bear transforms into hairy hero Buttocks and sets out to save her.

Emily Cairns as Dandini in Buttons

Emily Cairns as Dandini in Buttons - Credit: Archant

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The script is a little unwieldy – there’s a creepy detour into the prince’s palace where he hides strung-up fairies and a somewhat clumsy sub-plot. There are adults only nights with audience participation – Betty may drag you on stage to fashion an éclair and a couple of profiteroles out of her biscuit mix – and it’s fun to imagine what remains once it’s been edited for the family friendly performances. All ages will relish the songs.

Given the company’s operatic credentials you’d expect good numbers but they surpass themselves with lots of imaginatively repurposed songs and impressively sharp choreography. Putting on Your Pinnie to Beyonce’s All the Singe Ladies is joyous; Buttons singing Creep by Radiohead is a highlight.

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The Queen medley is a bit drawn out – to conceal a costume change – and the use of Thriller is predictable.

There’s no straining for mince-pie magic and seasonal sentiment. Instead you get a knowing fairytale for the #Metoo generation. You won’t stop laughing.


Buttons: A Cinderella Story continues at King’s Head Theatre until Saturday January 5. For details and tickets, visit their website.

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