A sparkling script and ebullient plot from Johnny McKnight are the galvanising forces of the MacRobert’s Cinderella, directed by Julie Brown. He returns to his favoured Pantosphere setting, a post-modern parallel world where pantomime characters are destined to live and act out the rituals of the genre.
Feisty Angela Hardie as Ella is vivacious and emphatic, her voice soars in a selection of songs, ancient and modern - but all subversively altered in the lyrics. Anthony Fagan as her Prince is suitably full of himself but can’t match her vocally.
Ryan Fletcher plays the yearning, moonfaced element of Buttons well, as he simpers after Ella, but when it comes to audience interaction he slips into automatic. Unlike Richard Conlon (Fou Fou) and Jonathan Holt (Fi Fi) who get the complexity of the Uglies spot on. They are at once forces of evil and victims of it, in the form of Louise Ludgate’s underpowered Madame De’Mon.
The company makes good use of a 15-strong junior cast, who play members of the Dame School and student fairies, all learning their craft. A big, knowing production that, thanks to composer Alan Penman and designer Karen Tennent, draws in all the essential contemporary and local cultural references from Gangnam to Dirty Dancing.