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‘A festival of filthy fun’: CINDERELLA : THE SOCIALLY DISTANCED BALL – Turbine Theatre ★★★★

Turbine Theatre, London – until 23 December 2020
Guest reviewer: Claire Roderick

Turbine Theatre’s adult panto is a festival of filthy fun that you can’t help but love. While family pantos sometimes feel like they have a running time of 72 hours with the traditional nodding-off time for dads during the romantic duets, adult pantos never outstay their welcome and zip along at a rate of knots. This Cinderella, written by Jodie Prenger and Neil Hurst, is no exception, leaving you on a high and wishing for more of the joyous onstage insanity.

Being a pandemic panto, Baron Hardup has slung his hook with the cast following the rule of six. Buttons (Rufus Hound) has been furloughed, and the ball must end at 10pm.

The ecstasy of performing live mixes seamlessly with anger and disbelief at the government’s handling of the pandemic and its attitude towards the arts. The audience (safely masked and separated by Perspex sheets but not quite escaping extra sanitisation measures from Buttons) answer Buttons’ greetings of “Hello boys and girls” with “Fuck the Tories”, getting more and more animated each time.

Rubber gloves are donned to pass props around and a 2m stick is used in a dance routine to ensure social distancing. With Baron Hardup gone, his daughter Cinderella (Daisy Wood Davis) and her stepsisters Fanny (Scott Paige) and Vajayjay (Oscar Conlon-Morrey) are fending for themselves in Soho. When the Prince of Soho (Debbie Kurup) throws a ball to find a wife, it takes the magic of the Fairy Godmotherfucker (Sean Parkins) to ensure that Cinderella goes to the ball. But she must leave before 10, or her arse will turn into a pumpkin.

There are some wonderful pastiches of songs from West End shows – ending with a barnstorming version of Six celebrating the theatrical community – and the script veers between broad humour and razor-sharp wit at pace, with a cast so good that any mishaps and ad-libs blend in seamlessly. Lizzy Connolly’s direction holds everything together brilliantly, and the huge performances of the sisters and Fairy Godmother don’t overshadow the other roles.

Davis is a fiery Cinderella, more than a match for Kurup’s Prince – a hilarious mix of The Artist Formerly Known As… Jagger and Bill Nighy’s more spaced-out characters. Hound provides the heart of the show with his gentle Buttons, delivering filthy jokes in the sweetest way. Paige and Conlon-Morrey are perfect as the Ugly Sisters, with fabulous comic timing – a foul-mouthed and preening 21st century version of Ada and Cissie do Soho. Parkins steals every scene he’s in with his sashaying star turn, but together the cast are incredible.

It’s been a bleak old year for the arts, and as venues are slowly opening, the energy and excitement of being back together is amazing, even at 50% capacity. Cinderella captures and enhances that energy – providing an hour of belly laughs, sass and shedloads of sparkle this Christmas.



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