The Lyric Hammersmith does quality panto. That’s the deal every year: a stylish remix of the festive tradition that deletes the very worst bits (like, for example, the casual racism and the implicit misogyny) and replaces it with cheery jokes about Brexit and killer dance routines. However, this year’s offering, written by Jude Christian and directed by Tinuke Craig, is a particularly gorgeous treat. It’s not only a cut above the average he’s-behind-you LOL fest, it’s a heart-warmingly sweet piece of theatre where the central love stories are, you know, genuinely affecting.
Timmika Ramsay’s Cinderella is a stargazing scientist who wants to attend the palace ball because she’s heard the night sky looks particularly impressive from outside the light-polluted city. Her best pal Buttons (a superb Jodie Jacobs) is a perky make-do-and-mender who has her mate’s back when her ball invite is revoked: If Cinders isn’t going, then it’s ‘Strictly’ and popcorn for both of them. And the Ugly Sisters (Mairi Barclay’s Topsy and Lauren Samuels’s Popsy) have morphed into the Snuggly Sisters, because in the Age of Insta everyone just needs the right filter to look hot.
It’s also a celebration of that most festive of festive afflictions: social anxiety. Bob the Prince (Gabriel Fleary) is a lovable, loafing charmer (maybe he could give the real royals a lesson?) who finds it difficult to make friends and is intimidated by his mum’s balls.* He meets his soul mate, Cinders, through a shared love of the galaxies and a shared discomfort with the whole royal set-up. As, likewise, do Buttons and Popsy when they find each other stranded in mutual awkwardness on the dance floor.
If I was to be Madame Meanie (as the stepmother is re-named), I’d say it’s a little short on the big, raucous belly laughs, and the slapstick routines are a bit too reserved: why a glass of gunge when you could throw a bucketful? But aside from that, this is probably the closest you’re ever going to get to a sugarplum sweet panto spreading only the loveliest of lovely fairy dust. Oh, and that’s fake snow in my eye, in case you’re wondering.
*Loads of good ‘balls’ jokes in this panto, btw.