A panto in summer? Oh no they didn’t! Oh yes they did. Who said that panto is just for Christmas? And since when have Chickenshed played by anyone else’s rules anyway? The summer panto is a fun show for all ages and just loves to subvert your expectations. But we’ll get onto that in a bit because we had to get there first. And TfL were also subverting our expectations.
We had a whole complicated plan around the show as we had a long-lost relative visiting from Australia. The plan was to meet at Cockfosters station and go for breakfast before splitting into two groups – girls to the theatre, boys to the comic shop. All this seemed doable and, as we got on the Piccadilly Line at Finsbury Park, we were well on course to reach Cockfosters by 9. It seemed implausible, given how early we’d had to leave the house, but we were doing well.
Until Oakwood. Hands up if anyone can tell me where the Piccadilly Line terminates. Is it Oakwood? No! It’s the next stop. And if it was Oakwood, wouldn’t you expect some kind of announcement telling you to “all change please”?
Apparently that is not how the Piccadilly Line rolls. After a long time sitting in the station, we leaned out to see that the first train on the display was to Northfields in 14 minutes. Neither of those things sounded promising for people who were hoping to head northbound in the next minutes. We got off the train and then the doors started to beep, so we jumped back on, thinking it had all been a blip and it was carrying on its journey for one more stop.
Anyway, as we pulled into Southgate station for the second time morning, we decided to give up on this plan. We’d get off the Piccadilly Line and go and find a bus that would take us to Cockfosters to find the Aussie. That would be straightforward enough, right? Eva and I had caught the 298 and the 299 from this bus stop hundreds of times on our way to Chickenshed.
At first, it was promising. The 299 was due in 10 minutes, which jumped down to 6 minutes and then 4 and then it was due. But didn’t show up. Instead, a 298 showed up which *surely* would be the uncomplicated way to finally reach Cockfosters. It’s basically one straight road between them, right? The cursed Oakwood station is randomly off to the East on a kind of weird spur but Southgate>>Cockfosters is a straight line. All we needed to do was to get off at the correct stop.
Which is obviously easier when the bus you’re on doesn’t panic and try to say all the stops at every stop. So for the first stop after Southgate, the bus tried to tell us we were at “SouthgatePoliceStationSouthgateAsdaAvenueRoad” By the time we were passing Chickenshed, it was saying “BramleyRoadFrestonGardensCockfostersStation” which made my entire family try to get off the bus right there and then. Luckily, I kept my cool and wouldn’t let them get off until we were at “CockfostersStationTrentCountryParkCoombehurstClose”. Or in other words, our destination:
Turns out that the family were running late so we now had 15 minutes to kill. Lucky we’d used up all that time going backwards on the Piccadilly Line. The “Trent Country Park” part of the bus stop name had reminded me that there might be a nice place for a runaround nearby. It wasn’t as close as I thought it might be and getting there involved crossing a very busy road, almost walking into a cemetry and trying to work out where to walk on this segregated but unmarked piece of pavement:
But it was worth it for the full five minutes we spent in the park. We saw some ducks. Eva compared it – favourably I think – to the five minutes we’d spent at the Tate Modern last week.
As we walked back to the station after our five minutes in the countryside, we saw a familiar car beeping and overtaking us. Family were in the hood and the part of the plan where they left the car at Cockfosters station – £6 for the day, plenty of spaces – worked very well indeed.
The way the morning had gone so far, I was barely even surprised when my first choice of breakfast place was closed for a refit. It was pizza in Finsbury Park all over again. But we’d passed a place called Miracles on the way down the road, so we doubled back and ordered fast. We were running out of time before the show now so would they be able to cook and serve us a breakfast with enough time? And would Eva be swift enough to stick to the schedule?
Miracles do happen!
Eva didn’t quite get through all her chips, mainly because the portion was the size of her head, but she ate her hash browns, halloumi and artisan bread remarkably efficiently. She also made a good dent on her Oreo milkshake before we left it for Nathan to finish. The rest of us had tasty set breakfasts and coffee (except for Roo) and by 10:40 us girls were back out on the road and ready for a panto.
The show was in the Studio Theatre, which is a smaller and more intimate space than the main auditorium. It meant that the smaller kids could sit on mats in the front and join in with the songs and dances. Eva chose to dance from her seat. There was a routine for everyone to learn before the show even started but I was definitely too full of bacon to stand up and do it properly. Like Eva, I stayed in my seat and just did the arm actions. There was no pressure to get on your feet but the little kids who did were absolutely loving it.
Then the cast explained the premise of the show – they were a band of travelling actors and they were looking to put on a play that was a twist on one of the classic fairy tales. After some interesting suggestions from the audience, they unveiled their title – “Cinderella in Boots”.
The plot picks up at the end of the original tale. Cinders is trying on the shoe, it fits, there’s a wedding photo complete with sulking sisters and then happily ever after…..right?
No, of course not! What kind of plot would that be? Of course their happiness is derailed by an evil baron who declares himself King, inflicts a cruel and unusual punishment on the Prince and puts his plans for world domination into motion. Much more fun. Cinders is forced to work in a shoe shop, which obviously resonated with me from the Clarks’ days though I don’t remember my boss being a neon-pink Scottish yeti. Might have been more fun if they were.
So there’s a heroine, a villain, a slightly arbitrary hero who gets created by the Fairy Godmother near the end..everything a panto needs. Plus lots of shoe puns (when the villain appeared, the whole audience booed “Shooooooe”) and a lot of fourth wall breaking. But there are some twists….the Fairy Godmother is a bit ineffectual, the sisters are revolting social media junkies and the Prince is out of the equation for most of the story. Cinderella is the only character who consistently makes good decisions so it’s easy to know who to boot for. Sorry, root for. This shoe pun thing is infectious.
Being as rubbish at research as I am at catching the Piccadilly Line, I don’t have a cast list to hand. I was pretty sure we saw Lucy-Mae Beacock as Cinderella as I’ve seen her in Mr Stink a couple of times. She certainly sings like Lucy-Mae, which was shown off to great effect in a gorgeous number called “Princes and Pineapples” where the lights were dimmed and the cast used glow-in-the-dark hula hoops to create a magical effect.
The rest of the ensemble looked familiar too and certainly had the trademark Chickenshed energy and inclusivity. They weren’t at all phased when the toddlers invaded the stage and wanted to join in with the action…although the villain did have to break character briefly to ask them to stop throwing shoes at him. Well, if you tell an audience of kids that you wanna steal their shoes, what do you expect?
As you can tell, it got rowdy at times. Eva enjoyed the heckling and when asked to choose between Options A, B and C shouted out “Option H!”. Of course, she had no idea what Option H was but that was her preference. It was a joyous and freewheeling experience, with kids encouraged to participate as they felt comfortable and not just sit quietly and watch. There was an opportunity to have photos with the cast at the end as well, though Eva wanted to and then changed her mind. As ever with Chickenshed, it was a welcoming spaces for all types of kid – the ones who do want to sit quietly, the ones who want to dance and the ones who want to sit but heckle. All this audience participation never quite derailed the plot and there was an ending that was as happy as you’d expect from a panto. Don’t dig too deep into the logic of it all but just accept that everything seems to have worked out OK. And no shoes were harmed in the making of this show.
Also, I forgot to mention earlier how fancy the toilets at Miracles were. But they really were:
“Cinderella in Boots” runs until 13th August. For tickets and more info, click here.
Disclaimer: I received free tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own.