Wednesday, 30 October 2019

REVIEW: Soho Cinders at the Charing Cross Theatre

Old Compton Street in the heart of London is the setting for this modern twist on a classic tale. Robbie, the Cinderella of this story, is stuck working in a Laundrette after the passing of his mother and is forced to pay rent to his ugly step sisters. The two best things in his life come in the form of his best friend and colleague, Velcro, and his secret lover, James Prince; who incidentally is married to a woman and also running for Mayor of London.

Unashamedly camp, Stiles and Drews show takes pride in showcasing both light and dark sides of the LGBTQ+ community. From rent boys and sugar daddies to lap-dancing and simulated orgasms, Soho Cinders certainly isn’t as family friendly as its classic pantomime counter-part. That being said, the sharp wit and zinging one-liners make for some good laughs for a more age-appropriate audience.

Luke Bayer tackles the role of Robbie with sincerity and blasts through the at-times-tricky vocal score. Bayer had the audience in the palm of his hand during his show-stopping ballad, They Don’t Make Glass Slippers; a testament to his unique voice, his command of the song’s narrative and precise musical direction from Sarah Morrison.

Millie O’Connell as Velcro cuts above the rest of the cast utilising her unique vocal tone and becomes far more a part of the story in Act 2.

Lewis Asquith’s vocals were strong as mayoral candidate James Prince and the relationship between Robbie and James felt genuine; the love, the pain, the pleasure.

Michaela Stern and Natalie Harman were grotesquely sublime as ugly step-sisters, Clodagh and Dana. Adorned in cheap leopard print and guzzling cans of Fosters, the pair attacked their duet I’m So Over Men with energy and hilarity.

The rest of the leading cast of Ewan Giles, Chris Coleman, Tori Hargreaves and Melissa Rose were all well suited to their roles and tackled their vocal work with ease. The ensemble comprises of Ben Darcy, Savannah Reed, Luke Byrne, Laura Fulgenzi, Danny Lane, Jade Bailey and Thomas Ball, all of whom matched danced and sung brilliantly throughout and were utilised by director Will Keith well to manipulate Justin Williams’ simplistic set.

Overall, the acting felt significantly weaker than the vocal work, hindered by a sometimes-laborious text and jarring lines peppered throughout.

The use of a voice over to narrate the passage of time during the relatively unenergetic scene changes could have become repetitive but, by giving the narrator an opinion and a sharp wit, the scene changes became far less offensive.

Lighting a show in traverse staging has its difficulties and this show didn’t always over-come these, with actors often left with their faces unilluminated during dances. This didn’t detract too much, however, from Adam Haigh’s wonderful choreography. A mix of sharp contemporary and classical ballroom, the movement in Soho Cinders was suitably energetic and enjoyable. Worth a particular mention is the dance break in It’s Hard To Tellwas tight and executed brilliantly by the company.

Soho Cinders is the perfect winter-warmer and, although the moments of heavy dialogue require some work both by the company and a dramaturg, you can’t help but fall in love with this fabulous 21st century take on a story we all love.

Review by Max Topliss

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: V7 | Price of Ticket: £31
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