1 JANUARY 1954, Page 20


ascent of a beanstalk bending beneath her weight. Perhaps this was not always -so. Nobody likes good, clean fun more than I do. The idea of policemen having buckets of whitewash poured over them goes straight to my heart, and I suspect there was a time when pantomime consisted largely of these simple joys. However, all this went by the board long ago. Feeling like this about Christmas Enter- tainment, I went to the Players' Theatre with some foreboding (what Mr. Wode- house calls " a nameless dread "), and was glad to find that 1 was quite wrong.. It is true that there were no buckets of white- wash (perhaps the small stage would not have allowed it), but there was everything else. This was the old original panto as played in Queen Victoria's days, and it ended with a harlequinade in the approved fashion. Cinderella was as ashily appealing as one had a right to expect, the ugly sisters were as ugly as possible within the limits of humour. There were nice sets, nice girls and some surprising rhymes. What more could anyone want of a pantomime ? Perhaps the sympathetic atmosphere had something to do with it, but I would go to sec this Cinderella, if they chose to put it on in August. Don Gemmell's production managed to make the best of a small stage, Jimo Stevas was a fine principal boy and Barbara Burke nearly ran away with the whole thing as Dandini.

• If Cleopatra's nose had been an inch longer.... But Cleopatra did not live in the days of plastic surgery. Nowadays there is a remedy for everything. They take bits off and they add bits on. Peter Blackmore's new play deals with the despised, but efficient, secretary of an Egyptologist, who has her nose shortened, her waist taken in and her hair waved in order to begin to LIVE. The charm works on her boss with surprising results. Properly treated, this theme might have made a comedy, though I doubt it. As it is, the almost complete lack of wit in the dialogue, combined with the banality of the twists in the plot make up a play almost terrifying in its tedium. It is like watching two punch-drunk boxers slogging at one another: you can see the ineffective blows coming. This is not the fault of the cast. They do their best with the dead wood (particularly Betty Paul and John Loder). There is, however, a limit to human achievement. Human endurance too.