by Mark Clements.
Salisbury Playhouse Malthouse Lane SP2 7RA To 9 January 2010.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01722 320333.
Review Mark Courtice 17 December.
Lean, Mean Panto.
Having been for some while the repository of the old-fashioned tradition of family panto, Salisbury Playhouse seems to be trying to move things on a bit. Mark Clements’s new version of this tale seems less starry-eyed, and the lush production style has now changed to a leaner way of doing things.
Leaner seems meaner, not just in terms of the physical colour, but also in the treatment of the story. In this version for instance the Prince is for the most part more a querulously demanding snob than charming, and it isn’t the Ugly Sisters who keep Cinderella from the climactic shoe fitting, but a jealous Buttons. To try to fit the shoe, one of the Ugly Sisters cuts off a toe, which is then thrown about the stage; there are jokes, but somehow it’s not light hearted.
There is lots of glitter, still. The forest arch has some pleasant detail like squirrels and birds on the branches. The Ugly Sisters costumes (particularly their exotically structured wigs) give designer Karen McKeown lots of room for imaginative manoeuvre, but the evocation of the village and Hardup Hall seems a bit sketched in and two-dimensional.
The impression of parsimony is carried on in the casting; despite charming support from local young people, another couple of dancers would have given a bit more for a director Caroline Leslie to work with.
Some of the performances are uncertain in tone. Jack Wharrier’s Buttons has charm and a sense of fun as he works with the audience, but he seems uncomfortable with the singing and dancing. Kate Marlais as Cinderella has no such problems in a charming and well-sung performance.
Alexander Giles and Anthony Houghton as the Ugly Sisters work hard for their boos and hisses, and fire off a succession of the oldest jokes without any shame.
The production suffers from unbalanced sound so the words are often lost and Paul Herbert’s anodyne score sounds harsh. Otherwise, the production is neatly handled, the transformations are well timed and the magic coach and horses spectacular.
Dandini Jamie Bradley.
Prince Charming Sam Marks.
Buttons Jack Wharrier.
Baron Hardup Tom Anderson.
Abby Alexander Giles.
Fabby Anthony Houghton.
Cinderella Kate Marlais.
Fairy Godmother Alison Pargeter.
Young Performers: Aaron Campbell, Libby Hollingshead, Alice Hyland, Ellie McKinley, Edward Scott, Eloise Tyler, Madison Cooper, Erinn Dunworth, Rhys Gibbins, Oliver Hopkins, Iona Johnson, Charlotte Ray.
Director: Caroline Leslie.
Designer: Caroline McKeown.
Lighting: Peter Hunter.
Music/Musical Director: Paul Herbert.