Writer: Fine Time Fontayne
Based on a version by: Joel Horwood and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Director: Daniel Buckroyd
Original Music and Additional Lyrics: Richard Reeday
Choreographer: Charlie Morgan
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Cinderella is arguably the most popular pantomime tale of all, thanks in no small part to the strength of its story. The classic boy meets girl tale is perfect family entertainment but, in the Mercury Theatre’s production, it seems both comfortably familiar and yet still fresh.
There’s a few twists to the traditional set up. Cinderella still has to endure the horrors of her step sisters (here the grotesque Fluf and Trif) but her traditional father (the Baron Hardup) has been dispatched (in a tragic self-decapitation, while shaving in the bath, with a toaster) and survived by his villainous wife, Evilla, The Baroness D’Arcy Stoneybroke. Loyal companion Buttons is still there, though wanting to train as a pilot and of course no good panto would be complete without the fairy godmother, here the Essex through and through Fairy Fingringhoe.
There’s a feeling of West End musical values at play, from the opening bars of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 (reworked to reflect Cinders’ working hours of 9 to 9) it’s clear that music will play a strong part in telling this tale. It’s a good move as the smattering of recognisable songs, though with ingeniously adapted lyrics, help guide the audience while providing ample opportunity for comic fun. Lady Gaga’s Poker Face transforms into a song about the Baroness escaping her ‘Pokey Place’ while Cinder’s plaintiff All by Myself morphs into All By My Elf. Even the ubiquitous Let It Go makes a brief, one verse, appearance but its unlikely Disney ever conceived the song as an accompaniment to flatulence.
Fine Time Fontayne’s adaptation of Morgan Lloyd Malcom and Joel Horwood’s original script, whichfirst played the Lyric Hammersmith in 2012, adds in plenty of local references to keep Colchester audiences on their toes.
Under Daniel Buckroyd’s tight direction and Charlie Morgan’s lively choreography, the company is clearly having fun with the piece – a real asset when performing pantomime. Laura Curnick opens the show as a down to earth Fairy Fingringhoe, played with a mix of Barbara Windsor and Essex gangster’s moll that leaves you in no doubt this isn’t a women to be messed with. In fact it’s the women in the company who seem to have the upper hand in this production. Sarah Moss’s Cinderella may be put upon by her step family but she’s not going to give in without a fight while Basienka Blake revels in the sheer wickedness of the Baroness.
The men on the other hand seem somewhat more downtrodden. Dale Superville charms the audience with his loveable, if put upon Buttons – a bundle of nervous energy not helped by the Baroness calling him every confectionery brand under the sun instead of Buttons. Simon Pontin’s Prince Charming could easily be mistaken for Prince William but it’s unlikely that the current third in line to the throne would be quite as socially shy as this slightly wet Charming.
That of course leaves the sisters, two wonderfully outrageous creations by Ignatius Anthony and Tim Freeman. The pair work wonderfully well together, handling numerous audience heckles from the lively Essex audience and displaying perfect comedic timing in a beautifully constructed slapstick scene.
Cinderella is perhaps the most magical of pantomime stories and Buckroyd’s staging makes full use of theatrical magic to delight the eye. Juliet Shillingford’s beautiful sets create more than one gasp of appreciation while Mark Dymock’s lighting plot adds a further layer of sparkle. The pivotal transformation scene at the end of act one is handled well with Cinders’ horse and carriage appearing to the strains of One Moment In Time receiving a well-deserved round of applause.
There are a few moments when vocals are lost within the musical numbers but this is still early on in the run and there is plenty of time for these to be ironed out. A magical and spectacular staging that shows how panto should be done!
Runs until January 11 | Photo: Pamela Raith