Cinderella

Mike Kenny

Hull Truck Theatre Company

Hull Truck Theatre

From 05 December 2014 to 10 January 2015

Review by Richard Vergette

Cinderella might be the title of the most famous pantomime of them all, but Hull Truck’s production of Mike Kenny’s adaptation of the fairytale doesn’t contain a single thigh slap and is distinctly lacking in glitz or cheese.

This is something of a paradox given that the story is seen through the eyes of the rats lurking in the kitchen, whom Cinderella (Annabel Betts) befriends.

In fact whilst this version contained plenty of laughs, live music (a brand new score by James Frewer) and the inevitable happy ending, its darker moments are more reminiscent of the 19th century Aschenputtel by the Brothers Grimm than any big production panto.

In this story, Cinderella is a nobody, downtrodden and bereaved; angry, despairing but energetically resentful. Annabel Betts portrays her with an edgy humour, a feisty young woman rather than the shy, demur victim of old.

The chorus of rats who help her to prepare for the ball (“Who needs a fairy godmother?” calls one) is an admirable ensemble—wise cracking, nimble and earthy. Each one of them is a skilful musician and the sense of fun and energy they generate provides the high points of the evening.

Mark Babych’s production is stylishly economical, presenting us with not so much a world of colourful, fairytale royalty, as one of mischievous vermin where rubbish is recycled imaginatively. As Cinders sets off for the ball, instead of a golden coach she rides on an old car seat mounted on a nicked shopping trolley covered over by a parasol of twigs. His direction and Kenny's script provide a refreshing antidote to the sometimes over-produced, hackneyed traditional pantomime.

However, should you be pining for a little bit of “He’s behind you” style entertainment you needn’t worry. This is a show where there’s plenty of audience participation, two gloriously funny ugly sisters (Rhys Saunders and Michael Lambourne), a King (Nicholas Goode) desperate to marry off his terribly wet son (Laurie Jamieson) and a nastily vicious step mother (Louise Shuttleworth).

It’s a rather lovely moment when the far more assertive Cinderella tells the Prince off for dropping litter and then proceeds to teach him how to dance. Without being overtly ‘right on’ there are some attractively subversive features—as one might hope for in a Hull truck show.

The audience that greeted Cinderella with prolonged applause and cheers were mostly families with young children; they were charmed and amused in equal measure. This is a tight, funny, exhilarating and punchy show that hits the Christmas spot perfectly.