Brassneck’s new production of Cinderella, one of the most familiar pantos, is so fresh it makes you realize how tired many pantos are, and locates the big kid in all of us. They’ve reinvented what can often be trite, setting the narrative in a social media age and portraying the handsome Prince and Cinders as a kind of Harry and Meghan twosome. The actors, both excellent, even look like the near Royal celebs.
But it all begins with Fairy up Liquid, actually drag act Neil Keery and the writer. At one point, he asks whether you can get a Bafta for writing panto - well, he probably should! Before she sashayed onstage in a short very green number, excitement was building in the Devenish Complex. We knew Cinderella would get to the ball because of the show’s location, the grand hotel ballroom with posh red chairs. Chocolates were consumed, light sabres flashed. Families were in evidence and the company policy of providing cheap seats for a great theatre experience was clearly working.
So what did they do with the story that became famous as a medieval French rather Freudian tale by Charles Perrault with originally a furry lost slipper Cinders fits into? Quite a bit, mainly moving it into contemporary issues. This Tok Tik world (copyright issues, I guess) is a great reworking of the bullying and scapegoating setting of our put upon heroine. Cinderella (starry Philippa O’Hara, who sings and dances and scrubs up a treat) is a key influencer whose dance ideas are borrowed by her ugly sisters. Actually, the Karens aren’t that homely, just mean, but the hilarious final fart attack joke on them at the end pleased many members of the audience. Orla Graham and Vicky Allen definitely do the business.
Apart from the usual rough and tumble, this is one smart pantomime. We had a little bit of politics when the Stormont stasis was namechecked, and Ms Liquid called said someone looked like “a younger version of Jeffrey Robinson” which got a big laugh. It was a witty evening with a moral, the notion that we shouldn’t live our lives second hand via Instagram and Tik Tok and so on but engage with life, and with other people. Our Prince (Simon Sweeney) initially a Duke of Sussex soundalike and horribly plausible is it turns out a top social media influencer. He and Cinders eventually link up, not to get married, but to join forces on a bigger, better social media project. But also, one hopes, to canoodle as he looked understandably impressed by her ball appearance in a short, spangly dress.
We had a spunky Buttons (Conor Cupples), some super silly dance routines which got the much younger audience members rushing the stage, and great songs from Katie Richardson.
This is an impressively affordable show , with tickets from £8-£12, that should directed with panache by Tony Devlin attract a new panto audience. Oh, no it won’t. Oh yes, I believe it will!
Cinderella runs at The Devenish Complex until December 21.