I’ll admit straight out I’m not a big fan of pantomimes. Too often the performances are wobbly, the jokes are a bit naff, and it’s all stuff we’ve seen before a million times. I was delighted therefore to have attended something a little different at The Old Market this Christmas: Cinderella and The Beanstalk.
The show unravels around the slick premise of three show-makers who have unwittingly forgotten to hire a cast, and more than one musician. “Have no fear!” they announce. “There will be a pantomime tonight because we’re going to do it ourselves!”
So begins two hours of absurdity, as the trio switch between campy costumes and hilarious characterisations, to pull off an elaborate amalgamation of all your favourite fairy-tales. The tiny cast have bundles of energy and talent to keep spirits high, and the intricate and cleverly subversive plot ensures older audiences are just as enthralled as the little ones.
The play was initially created by surrealist comedy trio Sleeping Trees, and its delivery really captures the playfulness of pantomime, failing to fall into the trap of being too polished and pristine as professional pantomimes are increasingly becoming. The meta quality of the show was particularly entertaining; the most hilarious moment being half way through when one of the actor decides he won’t go on with the farce any longer and storms offstage. To this a fellow actor hesitantly remarks “I guess that’s the interval?” and the lights go down.
Set and lighting were kept subtle and simple, while much praise must be given to musician Shamira Turner who single-handedly provided a fantastically whimsical soundtrack with what I counted to be at least 16 different instruments. The show even managed to incorporate the dreaded audience participation through an exceptionally entertaining Home Alone themed interlude, which was as creative as it was hilarious.
Hats off to Cinderella and The Beanstalk for restoring my faith in pantomime – this show really is a treat for the whole family!