• By Our Drama Critic

HENDERELLA: Blackburn Cathedral’s star-studded Christmas Pantomime

Blackburn Cathedral is rapidly establishing itself as a centre for avant garde performances and farce. This well-earned reputation is further enhanced by the production of this year’s pantomime, Henderella.

We are delighted to see no less a person than the Bishop of Blackburn take on the title role. The Bishop’s trademark blend of naive gullibility and nuanced nonsense is brought to the performance with great aplomb. These skills ensure that the familiar text of the ancient story becomes infused with all kinds of new meanings.

The central scene of the play is of course the ball, where the Ugly Sisters are celebrating their true gender identity. Henderella gives a magnificent solo performance at this point, a one-person dialogue about the merits of the occasion:

“This is a splendid celebration.”

“Oh no, it’s not.”

“Oh yes, it is.”

“Oh no, it’s not.”

It was a bold decision to cut out audience interaction at this point and have Henderella perform this as a solo piece, but the bishop manages to fulfil it, conveying the internal struggle of being in two minds, or possibly, having two faces. A Janus-like triumph!

The story reaches its climax when Henderella must get home before the Imam issues the call to prayer, and in the confusion the bishop loses the plot, which in the pantomime is symbolised by the glass slipper.

Special mention must go to guest artiste Justine Willbe from Canterbury, playing Prince Harming. It was a theatrical tour de force when the audience spontaneously greeted the Prince with the cry, “No-one's behind you!”

The pantomime is expected to run and run throughout the Christmas season and into the New Year. Don’t miss it!

(Free Blackburn Cathedral Gin will be provided and a 10 per cent discount for ticket holders of Norwich Cathedral’s helter skelter. Prize winner of Tonk the Tinker contest at Derby Cathedral, the Dean of Derby, will be the Chief Guest at the Christmas Eve performance)