THOUGH crystal slippers, midnight deadlines, and a happy ending are still very much a part of this Cinderella, there's been a considered shift away from the full-scale, traditional panto treatment of the story.

Instead of grotesquely-guyed Dames who make the cross-dressing a source of innuendo-tinged humour, the sisters - played by women - are a pair of stuck-up bitches who both want to marry Baron Hardup for his title. Jeanie Fisher and Susy Kane still get to wear OTT frocks and look ridiculous, but their comedy - and their bullying of Cinders - is intended to be

closer to the camp malevolence of Cruella de Vil than in-yer-

face gallus panto.

Just how well that works depends on the age of the audience. Really young children won't necessarily appreciate the subtler word play, but they certainly won't mistake the nasty, threatening edge that creeps in when the sisters deliberately destroy Cinders's hopes of going to the ball. It's a grade A

boo-hiss moment. Which is where panto rushes in again!

Cheering and booing have been positively encouraged by Louise Beattie's chummy, chatty fairy godmother. She regularly bounces on, just to make sure we are au fait with the story so far, initiating a dialogue that is superbly fanned into all-out, lung-bursting participation by Keith Warwick as Button. This guy is absolutely the business; wee, wiry, marvellously outgoing, and sharp with the patter. He is the daft lad the audience adores. He still doesn't get the girl - Cinders (Alison Douglas) falls for a prince (Kieran Brown) whose court seems word-perfect in the Robbie Williams songbook!

So not totally a panto, but a classy rethink that retains a lot of the essential vitality, mayhem, and magic of that enduring genre.