Reviewed – 28th November 2019
“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.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Geraint Lewis
The Vaults until 12th January
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