Theatre Review: Scouse Cinderella, Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

Scouse Cinderella
Image Source: Royal Court Theatre

Show: Scouse Cinderella
Format: Pantomime
Genre: Comedy
Date: November 29 2018
Location: Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

Talk about taking the pantomime concept to a different level! Once again the Royal Court Theatre provides its unique, adult-aimed version of a classic Christmas panto tale. In this case, it’s Scouse Cinderella, thus meaning that it’s Cinderella with a distinctly Scouse twang!

Scouse Cinderella

Synopsis Of Scouse Cinderella

This local take on the timeless story of Cinderella begins with the news that Cinderella (Hayley Sheen) has lost her mother – the Fairly Goodmother, played by Lindzi Germain – in a chip pan fire, supposedly started (albeit accidentally) by Cinders. Meanwhile, the local woods are put up for sale to raise money for the City Council, meaning that the animals are going to lose their natural habitat. The comedy kicks in right away, especially when we meet Joe Hardupson (Keddy Sutton), a completely believable parody of Mayor Joe Anderson, which leads to all sorts of sight gags and region-based one-liners. The Mayor, who is Cinders’ father, cries at the grave of his wife, which reads “1973-Yesterday!”

The cast encourages audience participation throughout. So, a member of the public receives a special diamond ring by Buttons (Michael Fletcher). It’s the ring – The Heart Of Liverpool – that holds the key to potential prosperity and fortune. Meanwhile, Cinder’s evil auntie, and the twin sister of her mum (Lillian Redrowding, also played by Lindzi Germain), turns up out of the blue, and manages to switch the will of the dearly departed with one of her own, meaning that when Mayor Hardupson reads it out, it will be her and not Cinders who receives the diamond ring, as well as her housing company benefitting from the planned forest works.

References

Along the way, and with amusing references to the likes of the Adelphi Hotel (“dark, damp and full of insects!”) and other landmarks, Lillian brings along the two Ugly Sisters (Choo, played by Andrew Schofield, and Brook, played by Paul Duckworth; put their names together and you get Tuebrook!), and the three of them makes Cinders’ life miserable, as well as that of her friend Buttons.

We learn that because of the “giant fucking dolls” (which leads to some funny jokes, such as one where a bus trip to the ball later on is not possible because of a huge knife being driven through one of them), the Mayor has no money left (which may indeed be accurate), hence the need to sell the woods. We also meet Peter Prince (Stephen Fletcher), who returns having seen the error of his once-evil ways, and expresses his love for Cinders, though it is Button who really loves her.

Invite

It all leads to the crew being invited to Peter Prince’s Ball (he assures us that it’s a giant ball). The Ugly Sisters and Lillian prevent Cinders from getting an invite, locking her and Buttons in the fridge while they use all sorts of ingredients (such as an “old bag” with Theresa May’s face on it, “sugar” (Alan Sugar’s face is adorned on that bag) and juice from a local cow (the bag shows Esther McVey here) to make a cake for the Ball, all while the Mayor and Lillian begin to develop romantic feelings for one another.

Unbeknownst to the evil lot (including the Sisters, who discuss how bad they would look travelling there in a Delta cab), Peter provides an invite to the Ball for Cinderella. This leads to a slightly confusing journey montage scene as all involved travel to the Ball, held in St George’s Hall which had images of Cilla Black, Jimmy Tarbuck, Ken Dodd and Joe himself, and they were a sight to see.

Ball

At the Ball, Cinders (using an alias, Princess Drive) dances with Peter and is generally the star of the show, which angers her relatives (except Joe, who doesn’t realise that she is present). But she leaves early to make the last train home, thus meaning that when she exits just before midnight, one of her shoes is left behind. After a long and very funny scene where The Sisters perform their own, alcohol-related version of The Twelve Days Of Christmas (with each getting more and more footless as they drink the beverages), we see Peter’s journey to find the true owner of the shoe, which brings him to the home of Cinders and co.

In a great twist, the shoe actually fits one of the sisters – Choo – which leads to the fourth wall being broken and, amidst the chaos of the cast implying that things have gone badly wrong, one of the “crew” workers – Katy, played by Eva McKenna – loses her rag and has a go at everyone, only to be inadvertently injured as the show falls apart around them. This scene went on a bit too long, and though we do see Katy involved in fixing production issues throughout, this didn’t happen often enough for it to lead to the major scene that it would become later on, but it still made for one of the most memorable aspects of this show, and a refreshing left-turn on the usual moment where the show finds the right foot.

Daft

Eventually, after all sorts of daftness with the show being remedied (including Buttons snogging Lillian), we finally get to the shoe fitting Cinder’s foot, and her and Peter coming together – but that’s not it. Because the woods are still up for sale. Though Peter has lots of money to salvage the situation, it still looks like Lillian and co. will take ownership. But then Buttons, who has the real will and a ton of gold via an animal critter, shows up. And he buys the woods outright, saving the day for all.

To top it off, the Mayor of St Helens sends the lying Lillian away. “I’m not that bad!” Lillian screams in terror. Buttons ultimately ends up marrying Cinders. And our female hero goes for the true good guy rather than the one that let her down before. I should note that there was a reference to Cinders’ real-life pregnancy in a funny moment.

Analysis Of Scouse Cinderella

The music was really good, with some notable original tunes. And the singing performances of Hayley Sheen and Michael Fletcher were outstanding. Andrew Schofield and Paul Duckworth were hysterical during their scenes. But I would have liked to have seen more of them. The costumes ranged from authentic to highly amusing. One example was the backless dresses for the Ugly Sisters as they headed to the Ball. And the local references were spot-on without becoming overwhelming or detrimental to the story. The show ended with I’ve Had The Time Of My Life, with the Mayor receiving the big lift.

This was a great show overall. The settings were very effective, and one could tell that a lot of work had gone into them. Similarly, there was plenty of attention to detail for the props and the one-liners. In a nutshell, it was the ideal local panto for the Liverpool audience.

Audience

The one big negative for me was not the fault of the performers or the production. It was the shouting from the extremely ignorant attendees near me. This included screaming the songs, howling at every joke, or even seemingly reading out scripted dialogue at times.

It became so bad that I couldn’t hear the performers during much of the second half. They continued even when Buttons asked only one half to join in with Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. That sums things up. I hope for the sake of anybody else coming to see this show that they don’t have such an experience. It really did put a dampener on the evening.

Summary Of Scouse Cinderella

Still, this review covers elements of the show that the cast and crew were in control of. And to that end, this was a real Christmas treat. If you want something different, yet still very funny and perfect for the Liverpool crowd, you must see Scouse Cinderella this Christmas.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent

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