Saturday, 23 November 2019

REVIEW: Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith

The Lyric Hammersmith is a curious venue with the wonderful Frank Matcham interior reinstalled inside a new seventies breeze block box with basic finishings and this year's Christmas offering of Cinderella which runs from 16th November to 5th January 2020 seems to follow the same idea with the traditional classic Pantomime story updated in a modern basic frame. I doubt that there will be a more politically correct version of Cinderella on offer this year reflecting the affluent diverse local population and attracting an audience of yummy mummies with their kids.

Jude Christian who wrote and directed the 2018 pantomime Dick Whittington, and directed the 2017 Jack and the Beanstalk, has written "the usual Lyric twist" version of Cinderella set in The Hammersmith of today. Here Buttons is a female tailor who falls in love with one of the ugly sisters, Cinders in dungarees and aspiring to be an astro physicists, falls for a shortsighted shy Prince Bob and the Stepmother has a pet alligator! There are jokes about zero hours contracts, January 31st tax deadlines, Fracking, drones near Heathrow and Pizza Express in Woking and then curiously innuendo references to Fallopian tubes and having only one ball to give the show a grown up feel. 

Tinuke Craig directs her first Pantomime after recent successes with some various serious traumatic plays and gives the show a very different feel to the traditional Pantomime format. There is a strong feminist feel in the Queendom of Hammersmith, addressing the normal gender imbalance in Pantomime by casting nine women in a cast of thirteen. The kids on stage for the songsheet are dispensed with but instead a woman is invited from the audience to play the Queen of Hammersmith and a young girl invited on stage when she finds Cinders shoe which has mysteriously been left in the auditorium. 

The set design by Frankie Bradshaw (who so brilliantly designed the recent Sweat in West End and Jerusalem at the Watermill Newbury) has a child like quality as if drawn by the local school and updated so that Cinderella travels to the ball by space rocket and incorporating local motorway road signs! It's functional rather than magical.

Rhys Taylor plays Fairy Fredbare as a rather hoarse female Impersonator rather than a traditional Dame but has the best comedy lines with the puns around the London Underground of which we had "More Dan enough". However throwing sweets out to the kids three times seems a bit too often and obviously avoided the usual Heath and Safety concerns! 

Shobna Gulati leaves behind her Coronation Street persona and adopts a loud irritating Essex character as the villain of the piece Madame Meanie bullying everyone and pushing her two garish and brash daughters, the Snuggly sisters, Topsy (a Scottish Mairi Barclay) and Popsy (Lauren Samuels) towards Prince Bob (Gabriel Fleary). Their slosh scene in a changing room seemed rather laboured.

Cinderella is played by Timmika Ramsey and shines in the best routine of the show as she prepares to go to the ball with "Don't stop me now" although she never gets the midnight warning from the fairy ! There is a nice twist to the usual business when a drone hovers "behind you".

This is barely recognisable as a traditional magical Cinderella but like all good Christmas shows has been tailored for the local audience with the "Lyric twist" and they seemed to enjoy the show even if left me hoping for better things in the weeks ahead.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★

Seat: Stalls row L | Price of Ticket: £42
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