Renowned across the Central Belt of Scotland for his especially modern and fresh-thinking pantos, Johnny McKnight is a fixture at Glasgow’s Tron, where he balances a sense of wonder and a contemporary, Scots-accented humour.
His skill ensures the ‘fun for all the family’ tag doesn’t mean the spiky adult edge has been filed away.
This year, the first-rate enthusiasm and jokes of Cinderfella have been bolstered by an edge of contemporary relevance, which ensures this production is a real tour de force in McKnight’s panto repertoire.
The pitch is an all-female production of Cinderella, where our hero (Sally Reid) seeks to gatecrash the WAGish Princess Charmaine’s (Lauren Ellis-Steele) all-male ball, but not for love or aspiration – she wants to ask for help in saving her late parents’ vintage store from being sold by her crowing Wicked Stepmother (also Ellis-Steele). In this traditional framework, all concerned pick up the baton and sprint with it.
McKnight’s script is sharp, reinforcing positive messages about self-sufficiency as a woman while keeping the tone light and self-deprecating – a cameo sequence from a number of disgruntled fairytale princesses is outstanding.
Ross Brown’s musical numbers and Eva Forrester’s choreography ring with contemporary pop charm. Kenny Miller’s crisp direction and vibrant, colourful design – the cartoon wig-helmets made of strands of foam are gorgeous – maintains a sense of freshness throughout.
The performances really make the piece. Ellis-Steele swaggers through her double role and delivers some stunning vocals, while Jo Freer’s baa-ing Muttons is a welcoming narrator.
In their muscle-suited male personas, the ever-versatile Reid – magically transformed into Cinderfella – and Daisy Ann Fletcher and Hannah Jarrett-Scott as laddish stepbros Larry and Harry, provide the most enduring memories of this thrilling comedy triumph.