Cinderella

Tom Wells
Lyric Hammersmith
Lyric Hammersmith

Karl Queensborough (Prince Charming) and Young Ensemble in Cinderella, Lyric Hammersmith Credit: Tristram Kenton
Peter Caulfield (Licious), Sara Crowe (Madame Woo) and Matt Sutton (Booty) in Cinderella, Lyric Hammersmith Credit: Tristram Kenton
Krystal Dockery (Cinderella) in Cinderella, Lyric Hammersmith Credit: Tristram Kenton

Cinderella is widely regarded as the most magical and popular of all Christmas pantomimes. Its rags to riches tale of true love was first seen on the pantomime stage in 1804 and for 2015 the Lyric has given it its trademark 21st century make-over.

Two of the title's iconic moments are cut from the Lyric's rendering of the tale. Buttons is bereft of opportunity for pathos as the only feeling he has towards Cinderella is friendship and with no Forest Glade, Cinderella's kindness is never tested by the Fairy Godmother in disguise; collecting wood for the fire doesn't feature at all.

In fact Tom Wells's script plays about with the intricacies of the story so much that its new structure affects the dramatic impact of the tale and avoids any emotional relationship between the audience and characters.

The famous ticket-tearing scene suddenly appears in scene two and is dealt with in a simple sentence and action, rather than building and becoming a focal point for increasing the sympathy for Cinderella's plight and hatred towards the Ugly Sisters and Wicked Stepmother. In dispensing with Dandini, the Prince's sense of isolation is increased, but, in meeting Cinderella at the riverside and revealing his true identity in their first encounter, any sense of suspense is lost.

Krystal Dockery (Cinderella) and Karl Queensborough (Prince Charming) both graduated from the ranks of the Lyric's Young Company and, whilst the production bursts with energy, the cast still appear to be finding their feet when working with an audience. Pantomime is a genre like any other that requires a particular skillset.

Yet again, the Lyric's slosh scene resembles nothing more than a messy foodfight, which is a great shame as the premise of concurrently making fishy soup for the wicked Madame Woo and assisting the Sisters as they prepare for the ball has great comic potential. Such sequences need to build and be highly rehearsed. Sadly this slosh has more to thank Dave Benson Phillips for than Drury Lane.

Building upon the success of last year's chase sequence in Dick Whittington, Cinderella's slipper quest works very well, if a little long, as doors slide across the stage and a series of comic characters engage in chase and conversation.

However, in this 21st century production, the slipper in question is a sparkly Converse, which, having spent four minutes at the ball, Cinderella decides to leave behind in the event the Prince should wish to find her. The glass slipper is an intrinsic part of the narrative as it will only fit Cinderella's foot; sparkly Converse, on the other hand, will fit a number of people. In trying to be contemporary, Wells has missed the point.

The transformation sequence makes the most of some impressive lighting courtesy of Tim Deiling and draws sharp intakes of breath at Cinderella's ball gown thanks to illusionist Richard Pinner. Wells's narrative sees the dress replace the invitation in the tearing stakes, but in putting the focus on the dress code rather than the ticket, which she has in laminated form thanks to the Prince, it then seems slightly odd that Buttons is permitted to attend in his worker's dungarees and dance with the guests in the opening to act two.

Sara Crowe makes for a wonderful Madame Woo and the Young Ensemble's myriad characters from mice to crabs bring their scenes to life, adding another layer of festive fizz and sparkle.

The Lyric has already announced that next year's Aladdin will welcome Joel Horwood back as writer, so it's all change again for the W6 venue. The history books, however, will never forget Wells's important contribution to pantomime in celebrating Principal Girls who propose to Principal Boys and being part of a growing movement to rectify centuries of passive Princesses.

Reviewer: Simon Sladen