Published in the Guardian
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
IT'S impressive enough that Johnny McKnight is writing, directing and starring in Aganeza Scrooge at Glasgow's Tron this season, but somehow he has also managed to field two Cinderellas. At the MacRobert
in Stirling, there's an updated revival of his 2007 panto, while here
in Edinburgh, he has turned in a musical version set – for reasons best
known to himself – in modern-day Paris.
The concept is that Martin McCormick's unfeasibly hunky Prince
Pierre is on the hunt for a partner to join him in a reality TV show.
Chief among his acolytes are the trashy sisters, superbly played by
Nicola Roy and Jo Freer who, with telepathic precision, deliver half
their lines in unison and totes make the most of McKnight's OMG
teen-speak. Equally besotted is Julie Heatherill's otherwise
level-headed Cinderella, who fails to see through the prince's
self-centredness, even when he interrupts her mid-duet to say he's "not
quite finished yet".
All this, in Mark Thomson's production, makes
for bright and brash entertainment, but the show is caught between
competing traditions. It has the exuberance of panto, but without the
silliness; and it has the narrative ambitions of a more serious
Christmas show but not the psychological complexity.
A case in
point is Cinderella's stepmother. As a witch who draws her power from
unrequited love, she is a standard-issue panto baddie, and Jayne McKenna
plays her as such. But how much scarier would it have been for the
little girl if her father had chosen this woman willingly, rather than
being bewitched? Cinderella is not a story about fanciful supernatural
powers but about the irrationality, unfairness and excesses of a very
real adult world. This show misses a trick by not taking Cinderella's
quest seriously enough.
© Mark Fisher, 2012 (Pic: Eamonn McGoldrick)
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