Write a modern reinterpretation of a classic that switches the gender of key characters and you’d get queues outside the Young Vic. When pantomime does this people are lot less impressed, which seems unfair.
Take this year’s show at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre, performed in a huge tent in the middle of a field while the main building undergoes refurbishment. The unconventional location is matched by some novel additions to the familiar story.
Ryan McBryde’s show contains inventive scenes full of Mr Bean-esque physical comedy, a couple of magic tricks and belting musical numbers given some dazzle thanks to a troupe of young dancers.
Refreshingly, it’s not just the ugly sisters (played with camp snarl by Antony Stuart-Hicks and Dale Superville) who get in on the cross-dressing fun either; Nerine Skinner has fun disguising herself as the Prince’s aide, Dandini. David Shields’ costumes are wonderfully on-point, bringing a baroque outrageousness that wouldn’t be out of place on RuPaul’s Drag Race. This all combines to slightly overshadow Cinderella herself, although Mari McGinlay is quietly solid in the role.
Some aspects are a little more problematic. We’ve probably reached the stage where we can do away with fat suits. A lot of the humour is really limp, and if you’re going to riff on the double-meaning of balls, just doing it once should suffice, otherwise the knowing eye-rolls start to come across as laziness.
Still, stale jokes aside, there’s plenty to like about this inventive reinterpretation of a classic tale.