Cinderella The Midnight Princess

Charles Way
Cahoots and The Mac, Belfast
The Mac, Belfast

Cinderella The Midnight Princess at The Mac, Belfast Credit: Melissa Gordon
Cinderella The Midnight Princess at The Mac, Belfast Credit: Melissa Gordon
Conor Quinn's Sebastian and Corrie Earley's Cinderella Credit: Melissa Gordon
Corrie Earley's Cinderella and Jane Wisener's Fairy Godmother Credit: Melissa Gordon
Philippa O'Hara's Constanze and CatrionaMcFeely's Aloysia Credit: Melissa Gordon
Jane Wisener's Fairy Godmother and Allison Harding's Maria Credit: Melissa Gordon
Richard Croxford's King and Edalia Day's Wolfie Credit: Melissa Gordon

Charles Way’s Cinderella The Midnight Princess from Cahoots at Belfast’s The Mac offers a fresh, contemporary take on a traditional seasonal tale, looks wonderful and boasts delightfully characterful performances. But a thoroughly charming and witty production is hampered by the brute volume of its pre-recorded soundtrack rendering speech, lyrics and storytelling all but unintelligible in too many places.

That mic-ed performers and ear-splitting volume seems de rigueur now in theatre spaces that surely need neither—The Mac’s Downstairs theatre seats 350, The Snow Queen, currently running at its neighbour, the 389-seat Lyric, is equally hampered by a similar proclivity for turning the volume up to 11—detracts, in this instance from Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney’s otherwise fun, pleasing and lovely to look at production.

Scrooge-like grumbles aside, there is much to like and admire here. Not least the warmth of Way’s subtly pointed script, performances that are already settling into a winning ensemble, and production values that clearly engaged and enchanted all ages in the audience.

Corrie Earley’s Cinderella is an appropriately sweet ingenue caught in the spider’s web of Allison Harding’s scheming, two-faced stepmother (bedecked with a telltale Gloria Swanson Sunset Boulevard turban and played with wickedly deadpan humour) and the sibling cuckoos in the domestic nest of Philippa O’Hara and Catriona McFeely’s stepsisters, both gleefully, grotesquely, self-absorbed while staying on the right side of panto excess.

Jayne Wisener’s Fairy Godmother adds requisite magic, abetted by Nick Hutchinson’s enchanting, perfectly integrated visuals and Helen Foan’s impressively animated and convincing Blue Tit puppet.

If Morgan Cooke’s father figure is rather lost in a too-lightly inked-in role as a clockmaker striving to make time stilled in the absence of love start again, he remains personable in a likably bumbling, Geppetto-like manner.

Conor Quinn (no relation), who made an impressive professional debut earlier this year in Northern Ireland Opera’s Into the Woods, brings fetching vulnerability and charm to bear on Prince Sebastian.

His sidekick, Edalia Day’s diamante-encrusted composer Wolfie, is given little to do beyond camp, pantomimic buffoonery, but she does so with confident aplomb. The character is a curious addition to the fable, one occasioned by the quixotic decision by composer collective Score Draw Music to root soundtrack and songs in themes by Mozart. It’s an idea that occasionally works but never quite coheres, producing the evening’s most incongruous moment when the composer’s Requiem is pilfered by Harding’s on-the-make mother lamenting that her daughters have failed to woo the eligible Prince.

Richard Croxford brings knowing, scene-stealing panache to his eccentric, plum-voiced King Leopold, bed-bound and unwashed for four years until revealed anew in red-and-gold Ruritanian splendour.

Set and costume designs by Diana Ennis are a treat for the eye, Patsy Browne-Hope’s choreography by turns delicately discreet and slickly centre-stage, Simon Bond’s lighting richly atmospheric, dramatic and romantic.

Cavils aside, Cahoots’ Cinderella succeeds in Mc Eneaney’s nimble accommodation of pantomime conventions even as he makes larger claims for a production with bags of potential.

Reviewer: Michael Quinn

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