“it is impossible not to enjoy all the good humoured larking about in this production”
Imagine a gritty Cinderella set in a northern karaoke pub, and you have the premise for Not Too Tame’s version, written by Luke Barnes, and directed by Jimmy Fairhurst, of the perennial pantomime favourite. But that’s where the similarities end. In this decidedly grown up interpretation, Barnes has chosen to keep only the barest outline of the story, and ditch the magic. So Cinders is a charmingly downtrodden barmaid struggling to keep her dead father’s pub afloat. She is assisted in her endeavours by her best friend Mike, a nod to the fairy godmother role in the original story, but here a working man’s silver lamé wannabe drag queen who MC’s the music. Her evil stepmother, named Judy Garland here, and her two brash stepsisters, Simone and Garfunkel, leach off the labours of the pub workers, and dream of turning a tidy profit from a gastro pub instead. There is a Prince Charming, but he is a “fit” young man with his own ideas about how to exploit his “princess”. And Buttons is a neglected dog with thoughts of
suicide. Poor Cinderella, however is she going to extricate herself from this working class nightmare, and live happily ever after?
There are a lot of good performances in this production, although the singing, with the exception of Lizzie Hopley channeling the divine Judy, is for the most part uninspired. But what the cast lack in musical big moments, they more than make up for in spot on northern accents, comic shtick and spirited interaction with the audience. Patrick Knowles, as Buttons the dog, is a wonderful comic talent who keeps the action from sagging into gloomy exposition as he sprints around the house doing his best to avoid the inevitable bath. Cinders’ sisters, the inexplicably named Simone and Garfunkel, and played here by Louise Haggerty and Megan Pemberton, provide just the right amount of nastiness mixed in with hilarious turns as divas in training. These sisters may be terrible husband hunters, but Haggerty and Pemberton are particularly good at finding audience members willing to go along with their backchat and banter. And Jimmy Fairhurst, as the aforementioned Mike, holds it all together as he schemes to get Cinders to the party in a suitable dress. It’s really only Rosa Coduri, as Cinderella, dressed in jeans and an ugly Christmas sweater (why?) and Jack Condon, as Prince Charming, who struggle in poorly adapted roles. Coduri comes into her own at the end of the show, however, when she sends the upwardly mobile Charming packing, and decides that running the pub with her friends (and her dog) is the happy ending she’s been looking for.
For theatre goers who prefer their pantos traditional, with lots of magic and outrageously pretty costumes, Barnes’ adaptation of Cinderella will come up short. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to enjoy all the good humoured larking about in this production. And if you stick around after the show you will have the opportunity to get stuck into some serious karaoke.
The Falcon’s Malteser is the first book in The Diamond Brothers comic detective series by Anthony Horowitz. Directed by Lee Lyford, Feargus Woods Dunlop’s stage adaption of The Falcon’s Malteser revitalises the 1986 novel and brings Horowitz’s quick wit and clever storytelling to a new generation of fans.
Timothy Simple (Matt Jopling) is an ex-policeman who has rebranded himself as Tim Diamond, the world’s greatest private detective. Unfortunately, Tim is not the brightest sleuth meaning much of the detective work is done by his kid-brother Nick (Sian Eleanor Green). Together, they form the Diamond Brothers Detective Agency though business hasn’t been doing too great.
That is until the three-foot Mexican Johnny Naples drops off a mysterious package at Tim’s office and the Diamond Brothers find themselves at the centre of the international criminal world. When the package’s contents are revealed to be a box of Maltesers owned by evil mastermind Henry von Falkenberg, Tim and Nick must decipher the tasty treat’s significance before London’s crime boss The Fat Man (Samantha Sutherland) and German hitman Himmell (Fergus Leathem) close in.
The acting was strong from all with Leathem and Sutherland doing incredible performances as multiple characters. Hiccups such as Sutherland missing a porthole when throwing a wig were handled with humour and played into the parodic and self-referential nature of Horowitz’s series.
The set (Carl Davies) was cleverly designed and allowed for smooth transitions between the different settings. The backdrop consisted of four doors and a window that also doubled as multiple shop fronts. Three of the doors could be flipped as to either form part of the grey wall or act as doorways. The door furthest to the left had a circular panel that could be removed through which characters could pop up and in one scene used to hang a disco ball.
The play’s chase sequences involved particularly impressive staging. In the first, Leathem as Himmell enacted an entire car chase with headlamps strapped to his knees while holding a steering wheel and riding a swivel chair. In the second, Sutherland as the dancer Lauren Bacardi and Green made great use of the set’s numerous doors and chase sequence tropes.
The lighting (Jack Weir) transformed the stage in an instance. A green hue gave the impression of a dingy basement while disco lights instantly conjured a lively club atmosphere. During Nick’s monologues, the stage would go black and Green put under a spotlight. This was an excellent way of keeping the audience engaged with the play’s necessary exposition despite the action on stage.
The music (James Nicholson) was wonderfully atmospheric. Soft jazz reminiscent of film noir detective movies played throughout the performance including as a flank for Nick’s narration. An upbeat remix of a self-checkout machine’s stock phrases such as ‘there is an unexpected item in the bagging area’ was also a particularly creative backing track to a high street chase sequence.
There were also several musical numbers for which Jopling provided guitar accompaniment. Leathem and Sutherland were standout here, first performing a duet as the Diamond brothers’ parents and then Leathem, as Tim’s old boss Inspector Snape, rapping about all the villains in his life to the beat of Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang. The final song was a solo by Jopling who played the guitar in handcuffs which meant he had to comically climb into his guitar strap rather than put it over his head.
This adaption of The Falcon’s Malteser is wonderful fun for both young and old and its quick-paced and witty script is sure to have the audience both laughing and gripped.