Review: Rose's Cinders blows an irreverent raspberry at panto convention
Since it opened, the Rose Theatre’s own productions have often seemed to shun 'lowbrow' entertainment.
If they produced a cop show it would be Danish crime drama The Killing, not the PC Plods of The Bill.
After all, if punters want celebrities in baggy leggings they only have to go to Woking or Richmond to see comedian Tim Vine or BGT’s Pudsey and Ashley lark around.
So Christmas show Cinderella The Midnight Princess was never going to be packed with ‘it’s behind you’ moments.
But that’s not to say it does not have its populist laughs.
Even the Rose is not above blowing raspberries, and the audience on press night at the theatre on Friday was never more entertained than when the performers stooped to deliver ‘obvious’ gags or say something stupid.
In director Rachel Kavanaugh’s version based on Charles Way’s adaptation, the ugly sisters are tweedle dum twins, chattering inanely before pulling up their petticoats and blowing raspberries during bouts of snarling rage at Cinderella.
They expose their striped leggings, wear punk rock Doc Marten boots, and flower petal hats.
But are they justified in their jealousy and anger? In this tale a rather vindictive Cinders stands up for herself, bites her stepmother and laughs at her step-sister’s discomfort.
Father Christmas may have given a miss to a girl who puts "pins in shoes, mustard in food and fleas in clothes."
She is a penniless clockmaker's daughter who has caught the eye of Prince Sebastian Charming during his incognito roams through the town disguised as an urchin.
But unlike in the traditional tale, the pair argue over their fledgling love.
When he leaves his shoe behind early on we suspect we are in for a feminist twist.
Cinderella wants to go to the ball out of defiance and spunkiness, not out of old-fashioned romance.
She does not yet know Prince Charming is one and the same as her beloved urchin so why would she want to chat the regal fellow up? But a wise Fairy Godmother tells her to live and love.
Meanwhile Prince Charming has a uneasy relationship with his 'sick' Scrooge look-a-like father who has sat mourning in his filthy bedclothes for years waiting for his son to marry a princess.
Our Fairy Godmother has the power to become a bird which talks to Cinderella – an 'illusion' created by her carrying a bird on her hand and fluttering around the stage.
Wolfgang, Prince Charming's best friend, is a powdered (and no doubt perfumed) dandy who preaches to his pal disobedience to the King in the name of love.
He is a scene-stealing jester genius who wrote Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when he was two years old and his musical abilities are brought to the fore at the ball with a little help from an enchantment.
The Rose’s staging includes a giant mechanical clock towering above the stage ready for the inevitable countdown to midnight.
A revolving window spins around to reveal the King’s bed or Cinderella’s humble fireplace.
Whether the music, a violin backed medley choral style selection, grabs children weaned on X-Factor is questionable, but the rambunctious dancing won me over.
Some of the dialogue, especially in the first half, seemed to drag a bit. But the second act gathers pace and races towards a satisfying conclusion.
Is it disappointing that most of the magical transformation is described off stage? Perhaps no theatre production could compete with the Disney version.
I did see a pumpkin carriage fashioned from the fireplace but no panto horses. Instead we get a smoke machine and an on-stage costume spruce up, including a blonde wig for brown-haired Cinders.
When the ugly sisters attempted to dance and sing to seduce Prince Charming while competing with each other and trading insults, they received roars of approval. A “pointy sword" fight got similar laughs.
Our Fairy Godmother becomes more fun and less boringly ethereal as her mischievousness increases, culminating in her repeated attempts to have more than one go at putting the slipper on. She uses a series of ever more ill-fitting coloured wigs.
My line of the night was the phrase “The girl whose foot fits this unrealistically slim slipper...” - one that probably went over the heads of juniors but got the mums and dads giggling.
But when Charming and Cinderella finally meet there was a touch of magic in the auditorium. A genuine moment of poignancy was also created when the King described remembering the jewels in his deceased wife's eyes.
The child I spoke to said they enjoyed the show and their favourite moment was (SPOILER ALERT) when Cinderella and Prince Charming got married. The old tale still has the power to grab children's hearts.
And just in case you forgot it was Christmas, we even got a bit of snow during the finale.
Best when it is anarchic and rude, this traditional telling of the tale still manages to find room for the ugly sisters to blow a raspberry or two and ends up with Cinders putting the silver slipper on the other foot.
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On Twitter: @theatreofdamned Something a little different @rosetheatre Cinderella. A little bit aspirational middle-class-y but quite fun all the same.
@ciaranmccon Really enjoyed Cinderella. Charming, funny and magical. Best looking ugly sisters ever. Do see. And Rose Youth Theatre go free
@ginnyschiller Tremendous, novel, witty Cinderella @rosetheatre
@sarahvevers Cinderella @rosetheatre last night was fantastic. My friend's 4 year old absolutely loved it. Talked about it all the way home.
Other reviews from across the web
Cinderella - Faye Castelow
Prince Sebastian - Jack Monaghan
King Leopold - Timothy Kightley
Ugly Sisters - Jenny Bede and Laura Prior
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - William Postlethwaite
Fairy Godmother - Katy Secombe
Clockmaker Sigmund - Simon Coates
'Wicked' stepmother Maria - Claire Carrie
Musician - Buffy North
For more on the Rose visit surreycomet.co.uk/rosetheatre