Thursday 13 December 2018

13/12/18: Cinderella: A Wicked Mother of a Night Out!, London Welsh Centre

From the outset I knew this wouldn’t be a standard evening at the theatre. The opening set piece – “Bohemian Rhapsody” performed with absurd new lyrics – throws you in at the deep end and lets you know what to expect. The Not Too Tame theatre company’s Cinderella: A Wicked Mother of a Night Out! is comical, irreverent and deliberately ridiculous. The show is noisy, smart and streetwise, and you are never more than a few seconds away from another funny line.

To say this show is “loosely based” on Cinderella would be a major understatement. Luke Barnes’ script riffs on motifs from that fairytale and rides a huge anarchic truck through the middle of it with no attempt whatsoever to be faithful to the source material. It’s so fresh, relaxed and spontaneous that it feels improvised. The small cast operate in your midst and ignore the stage altogether.

The “story”, what there is of one, explores the fate of the young, orphaned Cinderella (Gemma Barnett), who works in a pub with her smelly, suicidal dog Buttons (Alex Griffin Griffiths). The latter spends most of the evening carrying a prosthetic leg. (You eventually find out why.) Cinderella also lives with a wicked stepmother called Judy Garland (Jess Johnson) and her ugly sisters Simone and Garfunkel. (Some of the audience might have been too young to get that joke, but I appreciated it.) Played by Louise Haggerty and Naomi McDonald, these two absolutely steal the show with a relentlessly flirty, hilariously bitchy double act that’s a delight to watch.

Jack Condon inverts the character of Prince Charming so that his name becomes somewhat ironic. Meanwhile Jack Brown is “Mike”, an amiable compere with long hair, a beard and a glittery silver dress. Mike holds the whole thing together, although much of the show’s appeal comes from the way it seems to teeter on the verge of collapse.

Jimmy Fairhurst’s direction makes the most of the small space available, and it works because the bar in which we’re seated naturally becomes the pub in the story. A karaoke machine is utilised at regular intervals for the likes of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and “Stand by Your Man”, with the cast singing lustily and drawing the audience into the act without humiliating anyone too much. A few punters are picked on mercilessly, but the actors are skilled enough to gauge who is happy to play along.

Don’t be expecting anything approaching a standard theatre production: this certainly isn’t a plot-driven narrative experience. Plus, if you’re offended by “colourful” language then it’s probably not for you. It’s perfect for a fun night out with a bunch of mates, but don’t take your young kids or elderly parents. The energy is infectious and has the effect of making you feel pleasantly drunk even if you’re still sober. You soon find yourself grinning, then laughing out loud, swept along by the rowdy exuberance. And if all that isn’t entertainment enough, you’re even invited to take part in your own karaoke session afterwards.



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