PANTO REVIEW: Cinderella@ Lyric Theatre, Belfast
RATS generally get a bad press, but the rodents at the centre of Mike Kenny’s Cinderella, currently showing at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, are a jokey, scruffy, rope-tailed lot who scamper their way into your heart and gnaw at your funny bone.
Friendly and feisty, these rats have broad ‘Norn Iron’ accents and provide a sympathetic furry ear for poor Cinders, whose mean step-family treat her abominably. “You’re not nothing,” the rats console her, “you’re vermin, like us!”
Director Richard Croxford creates a convincing picture of life behind the skirting boards in this top-quality production. Silly and witty in equal measure, down to earth yet also magical, this is a retelling of the famous rags to riches fairytale with a highly developed sense of fun.
As the rats - Ears, Teeth, Claws, Tail and Whiskers -recount Cinderella’s story, they take on all the roles, save that of poor Cinders herself. Unlike the Prince who is a bit of a spoilt dullard, it’s the rats who are having all the fun. The ball, when Cinderella finally gets there, is a lacklustre affair compared to the imaginary one the rats throw for her on the kitchen floor.
Naomi Rocke’s Cinders is a charming, delightfully plain-spoken girl. When the Prince proclaims her to be his bride she says: “I don’t know much about these things, but aren’t you supposed to ask first?”
Christina Nelson is terrific as the wicked stepmother, a vision of maternal malignancy in garish garb.
But the stars of the show are undoubtedly the supremely catty step-sisters Thisun and Thatun, played by Orla Mullan and Tommy Wallace. Their vanity is exceeded only by their hilariously inept attempts at dancing. And there are some side-splitting moments, such as when Thisun asks ‘does my bum look big in this?’, and Thatun replies ‘Your bum always looks big’.
My trio of young charges were in stitches as the puns, both verbal and visual, continued at every twitch of a whisker.
This production down plays the magic (no fairy godmother) and the romance. The mistreated heroine doesn’t want to go to the ball to see the Prince; she just yearns to get away from her drudgery and do a little dancing. The Prince, meanwhile, falls for Cinderella because she has no designs on him. She doesn’t even realise he’s the Prince – despite the fact that, as he points out, he’s wearing a crown.
Adults as well as children will be tickled by the witty dialogue, especially the rats’ malaprops and tendency to describe things in metaphors.
It’s not a pantomime and far from pink: but it will leave you with a rosy glow, nonetheless. A must-see this Christmas.
Cinderella runs at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast until January 5, 2014. Call 02890 381081 or visit www.lyrictheatre.co.uk/