Tommy Wallace, Orla Mullan, Michael Conway, Richard Clements and Christina Nelson play the rats in Cinderella at the Lyric Theatre Belfast from 30 November – 5 January 2014
Lyric Theatre, Belfast
For further details contact the Lyric Theatre on: 02890 381081
or visit their website at www.lyrictheatre.co.uk
Running until: Sun 5th Jan, 2014
‘O’Oh no it’s not!’
‘O’ yes it is!’ And so as December creeps in and we’re all thinking about presents, Secret Santas, pay-day loans and rocketing energy prices, the mirth and unbridled joy of the great and unparalleled tradition that is Pantomime has finally come home to roost.
For the next hour and thirty minutes, man, woman and a divide of two-to-one children to adult, hoot, sigh and boo their way through the familiar tale of the rags-to-riches story that is the story of the tortured, but reincarnated, Cinders. If you’re after karate-chopping rats, dresses appearing from the rafters, cunning set and costume design, mixed in with a rapturous and at times beautiful musical score, cleverly orchestrated choreography and belly laughs, the Lyric is the place to be until January.
Writer Mike Kenny, named by the Independent no less as one of the top ten living playwrights, has performed a wonderful job at turning the familiar into a peculiar and downright funny tale we’ve all grown up with. Oh to have been seeing this show through the eyes of an eight-year-old would be a mesmerising experience! The fact that it has a 30-something reviewer exulting is testament to Kenny’s fantastic twist to the story. No spoilers here, I’ll let you attend the show and see how he’s turned it ever so slightly on its axis.
But writers can only do so much. The Lyric’s in-house director, Richard Croxford, has worked a magic only the Fairy God Mother could triumph. Together with Robin Peoples, head of set and costume design, the pair have created a magical wonderland that Alice herself would be enchanted by. Artfully directing the cast through multiple costume and three set changes, Croxford and Peoples have made a scintillating script come to life with as much force as Shelley’s Creature. Everyone, from two-year-olds to their grannies fell for the magical dust sprinkled by the production team.
Of the cast… one would be cruel to find an Achilles heel. Naomi Rocke, playing the only sole role throughout the production, acts and sings with nuance, fragility, tenacity and youthfully brings Cinderella from hopeful to mournful, tragic to a Lazarus-style redemption. It’s no wonder her CV of film, television and stage reads so well.
As for the supporting cast, put simply, they’re terrific. Not a line out of place, not a movement out of step, not a costume change – of which there are many – fluffed. Michael Conway plays Whiskers, Father and the wavering, stuttering but finally realised Prince Charming with aplomb. Christine Nelson, taking ownership of Tail the rat – don’t ask me where the original mice cleared of to? – Mother, Fairy God Mother and the twisted, but hysterical, Evil Step Mother, twists her way through roles with gusto. Circus-trained, it’s obvious, even to the untrained eye, that Nelson has a flair for theatre, one which has seen her slip effortlessly from actor to director and writer with professional ease.
Orla Mullan, an actress of long-standing repute, plays Teeth and Thisun and is central to the rats’ recurring support of our beloved Cinders. Bangor born Richard Clements, of The Miser, What the Donkey Saw and many Greenshoot and TV appearances, delivered with the professionalism as the best of them.
Last but definitely not least, South Belfast born, bred and buttered, Tommy Wallace plays Claws and the second Evil Step-sister. To this viewer he was questionably the best character to watch as That Un. His Belfast tones, combatative mincing quality and his eye for the crowd’s reaction made the night. As a six-piece cast who also aided in set changes, there’s no-one to fault here. Quite brilliant the lot of them.
One final move of audience participation brilliance deserves a special mention: after the interval and with the comedic rats, Cinders and Mr Charming himself all in tow, the cast surged the audience and lead adults and kids on a Conga round the theatre. If seeing a gang of rats bringing 10 or 12 kids on a stage doesn’t chase the winter blues away – I’m sure they’re still perplexed – then you’ve the heart of Scrooge.
Maybe I’m fawning a little, maybe I’m getting that Christmas twinge, but after tonight’s performance, my tree’s going up tomorrow.
4 out of 5 Nerds