Is it panto-time again? Oh yes it is! The Muddy verdict on Iain Lauchlan's gloriously OTT Cinderella at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre.
Tweenies creator Iain Lauchlan has this Christmas added his own comic twists-and-turns to the rags-to-riches fairy-tale favourite– Cinderella. The multi-talented writer, director and actor is joined by side-kick Greg Powrie – together they play a raucous pair of seriously badly-behaved Scottish Ugly Sisters, Dyspepsia and Listeria.
Once again, the Belgrade’s wardrobe department has surpassed itself – the costume makers must have spent months putting together the sister’s garb alone! They arrive back from their Scottish summer sojourn in co-ordinated tartan dresses, Dr Martens and tartan shopping trolleys and end up dancing to Kool & The Gang’s 80s hit, Celebration, in gold chandelier finale frocks.
Each year Iain cleverly taps into the current climate – Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Trump are 2017’s top reference points.
Ever popular Craig Hollingsworth is back for his 6th year as love-sick Buttons and drags a poor mum from the front row to help practise his Ed Sheeran routine. He’s trying to impress Cinderella, who’s a big Ed Sheeran fan. So, watch where you book your seat!
As my eight-year-old pointed out the actress playing Cinderella – Alice Rose Fletcher – or as the Ugly sisters call her ‘the Blonde bread-stick’ is a dead ringer for Lily James, who played the title character in Kenneth Branagh’s rebooted film version.
The Ugly Sisters are on the lookout for a wee highland fling – plucking out two potential boyfriends from the audiences. The two male ‘victims’ are dressed up by ‘the girls’ in Scot attire – red wigs, tartan bow ties – and beckoned to the stage to recline on two pink chaise longues or ‘love-pods’ whenever a highland jig is played. If they don’t arrive on time they’re in for a snog – on press night one guy was sat virtually in the back row so really had to sprint!
This year’s hilariously slapstick Slosh Scene takes place in the sisters’ boudoir where Buttons is given the unruly task of getting the “hairy hikers from hell” ready for the ball. This involves shaving and waxing their overgrown underarm and legs – to the cry of “I need a hedge trimmer”– and spray-on fake-tans.
“You look like a big Cheesy Wotsit!” says Dyspepsia.
“You look like an Oompa Loompa!” Listeria replies.
I loved the after-party scene where the sisters arrive home from the ball a little worse for wear at 4am, drinking champagne from the bottle. Cinderella is gratifyingly smutty for the adults, and great fun for kids. Just don’t go expecting the special effect wizardry of something like War Horse, it’s panto!
It’s lovely to still have one little muddy who joins in rather too enthusiastically with all the jokes and ‘it’s behind you’ malarkey – I do apologise to the two ladies sat in front!
Also, at two hours 45 minutes, including a 20-minute interval, it’s not overlong for smaller children on an evening out. A definite must-see!