Writer and Director: Iain Lauchlan
Reviewer: Niki Craft
Among looks of disgust at tinsel-adorned trees and cries of ‘it’s November’ at Mariah Carey echoing out from retail outlets everywhere, crowds are flocking to Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre this evening for their official kick-off of this season’s pantomime.
Having worked their way, both very successfully and less so, through an array of panto-viable fairy tales over the last few years, 2017 brings Cinderella to The Belgrade’s main stage and that can only mean one thing…
After a gentle start meeting Cinderella and her friends, all hell breaks loose as the Ugly Sisters, Dyspepsia and Listeria, return from their Scottish holiday and begin to wreak havoc with stage and audience alike. Entering from the rear of the stalls to Iain Lauchlan’s familiar ‘helloooooo’, the audience double take as Lauchlan and his apparent clone, Greg Powrie, march their way to the stage insulting all in their path. With double the outrageous costumes, double the Scottish accents and double the props to bash Buttons with there’s certainly a feeling of double the fun being in store for us as the unruly pair launch straight into a food-fight and obtain boyfriends by way of some unsuspecting audience members.
With Powrie being on the scene for dame-assistance this year there is noticeably less time for the comedy double-act that is Lauchlan and Craig Hollingsworth, which is a shame given they really polished their rapport last year. Powrie is strong, however, and his inclusion doesn’t take away from the frolics: he and Lauchlan complement each other for the most part and the giggles coming from the younger members of the audience throughout fully reflect their efforts. Hollingsworth continues to gain strength and confidence in his performance which, although still as juvenile as it should rightly be, has an extra air of maturity about it and his interactions with both the audience and fellow actors are all executed superbly.
Alice Rose Fletcher’s Cinderella is a sweet and charming one and she evidently appeals to every budding princess watching although she is let down slightly by Bethany Brookes as Prince Charming – her first-show nerves coming across as a lack of confidence during some scenes; and
Maggie Robson, who flits between Fairy Godmother and Wicked Stepmother, doesn’t quite manage to separate her two characters enough at times and her wickedness comes across more drunk than De Vil on occasion.
You’d be hard pushed to be disappointed by this year’s, perfectly pleasing, efforts, although it certainly isn’t up there with the best. Cinderella is a tough pumpkin to crack with a rather straight story and a lack of material to be really creative with but Lauchlan (who incidentally also writes and directs the Belgrade’s panto) still does his utmost to impress despite this and there are some really impressive and magical moments during the telling of this classic pauper to princess tale intertwined with the more ordinary offerings.
The set glitters, the horse and carriage really flies, the costumes are quite ridiculous, the gags aren’t too adult, everybody joins in with the songs and the children come away with smiles on their faces, dancing their way back to the car with their bubble wands … it might be missing that extra bit of sparkle that would set it aside from the rest but it certainly does the job.
Don your glass slippers, hop into the pumpkin and catch it before the clock strikes and the magic is over.
Runs until 13 January 2018 | Image: Robert Day