Oxford Playhouse - Cinderella
25th November 2016 to 8th January 2017.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Ace show beats Trump
Oxford Playhouse's Cinderella has the comedy and spirit of the fringe
Cinderella, at the Oxford Playhouse, until Sunday, January 8
Soho Theatre director Steve Marmion's second Oxford Playhouse pantomime Cinderella is a joyful fusion of pop songs and traditional fare. It boasts a fringe aesthetic by casting Edinburgh comedy award winners alongside actors who have trained in physical theatre. In a year that has lost so much musical talent, Marmion included prominent tributes to David Bowie and, since this is Cinderella, Prince.
There are topical jokes about Brexit, where somehow 'phone with no charge' is rhymed with Nigel Farage. It's inevitable that Cinderella's truly evil character is Donaldina Trumpetta (Julia Innocenti), a part created by Marmion before Trump was elected president.
As last year, Liz Cooke has designed sumptuous backcloths, often containing witty, subtle homages to Oxford such as the Four Kindles pub (already a Two Ronnies joke, the Four Candles). These little details matter for local authenticity.
The stand-out star is Rochelle Rose, who has grown in stature since she performed as the Spirit of the Ring in last year's Playhouse panto. She's a Cinderella who worries, like many teenagers, about her body image, and you care more about her because she comes across as a person, not a stock character. Rose has a wonderful rapport with the audience as she expertly pays homage to Beyoncé with Marmion's versions of Single Ladies and Crazy in Love. She plays well opposite the super-cool Prince Charming (Max Olesker).
As Cinderella's stepsisters, Arthur (Stephen Ventura) and Martha (Joe Alessi) are pantomime dames without the corrosive humour that often cheapens pantomimes. They are both very entertaining, and somehow natural in their overblown outfits. Their jokes come at speed, balloons inflating their busts while belting out The Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin's Sisters are Doin' It For Themselves.
Hannah said: "I liked the cat, Dandini (Lucy McCormick), because she is so funny. She wore the Prince's clothes and he was wearing the cat's fur clothes. People will think she really was the Prince.
"And I liked the mouse. Buttons (Matt Ralph), with his big bottom. I laughed a lot when he was holding a pumpkin for no reason at all. Everything was fantastic."
and HANNAH LEWIS (AGED FIVE)
There are reviews from The Stage ("High wattage pantomine that honours tradition while also remembering it’s 2016... an up-to-date seasonal treat" - 4 stars), Oxford Daily Info ("a jolly good laugh and a show that actually represents Great Britain today: colourful, creative, crazy, and unapologetically amused by its own ridiculousness... In short, go. You will have fun").