“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.
“All the necessary components are there … I could just do with a little more amazement and a little less explanation”
Shotgun Carousel’s reputation for outlandish and stunningly executed immersive events far precedes their current show, Red Palace. After last year’s outrageously decadent Divine Proportions, I was fully prepared for an evening of hedonistic debauchery, expertly implemented to lavish excess.
he concept (Laura Drake Chambers) is strong from the start, and all-encompassing: There is a prophesy known across the land that after a thousand days on the throne, the tyrant prince will come to a bloody end. But the prince has no intention of giving up his rule and instead he’s throwing a party on the very day this prophecy should come to pass. Dress code is “your best ball attire and a mask to match” ( don’t worry, you can borrow a mask at the box office). It really is very effective to walk in to a dimly lit room full of masked faces, even if you know most of those are your fellow audience members.
For those who decide to indulge, dinner is served before the main event in a gallery overlooking the hoi polloi. MasterChef semi-finalist Annie McKenzie has whipped up a true feast – I’ll be thinking about that sticky honey soda bread with whipped rosemary butter for days to come, and I only wish I’d snuck in some tupperware for a little more of that rich, crispy shallot tarte tatin.
Performances are promised throughout dinner, but instead we’re occasionally introduced to a character from the main show’s narrative who we’ll no doubt encounter again later in the evening. This is a little disappointing: A performance suggests something of a spectacle and instead we have a preview of a show we’re already signed up to see. The cast themselves are magnificently adorned (Maeve Black) in gothic glamour, and they each play their parts with impressive commitment, even when hassled by substandard audience banter.
The show itself, directed by Celine Lowenthal, takes over the majority of The Vaults, sending the audience sprawling across various nooks and crannies throughout the venue. Initially there’s a sense that we might wander casually from room to room, making discoveries for ourselves, but after the first, we’re shepherded from one spot to the other to observe various necessary parts of the evening’s main plot.
The aesthetics don’t disappoint. Every space has been lovingly crafted to create vastly different atmospheres in each: Snow (White), styled as Barbie Madonna, is throwing a very sad birthday party in her sickly pink boudoir; Gretel (of the famous brother and sister duo) hosts an illegal cabaret with bathtub gin to boot; Red (Riding Hood) hides in the dark, dank forest, plotting her revenge against the prince. But concepts aren’t quite taken to their fabulous potential so within reach. Instead there’s a slight amateur fiddliness to it all, causing a lag between the evening’s tent-pole performances, and slightly sapping the fun out of it as the audience shuffles from one room to the next.
All the necessary components are there: stunning designs, exquisite food, engrossing performances and a well thought out concept. I could just do with a little more amazement and a little less explanation. No need to continuously force feed us the plot, we just want to have a radically decadent unicorn of an evening. Whilst for most that would be too much to ask, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Shotgun Carousel, and on this occasion they’ve just missed the mark.