Cinderella Production Anything but Shoe-string at Coventry’s Biggest Theatre

Humour, charm and warmth. The first three words that come to mind when I think back to the Belgrade Theatre’s opening night of their Cinderella production.

Seated in the epicentre of the central segment, I couldn’t have had a better view. The spirit of Christmas was definitely in the air and it was a joy to see people of all generations filter through the auditorium doors.

The opening few scenes captured even a sceptical nineteen-year-old journalist with lots of vibrant colours in the back drop of animated dance routines accumulating in an eye-pleasing set.

We were first introduced to Fairy Godmother-come-Wicked Stepmother actress Maggie Robson. Her ability to transition from heart-warming hero to vicious villain throughout the play really demonstrated her versatility, to the point where the spectator may not realise the two characters were played by the same person.

A few minutes later, the gorgeous Cinderella, played by Alice Rose Fletcher, skipped into the story. The happy-go-lucky persona that the main character requires to hold was perfectly executed all the way through the act.

My personal favourite actor Craig Hollingsworth, who played Buttons, was next to come into the play. His bubbly charm, wit and funniness was a real crowd pleaser with his delivery the best of his role that I have ever seen. Whilst being humble and simple, he was a character everyone’s eyes were immediately drawn to, even if he was not speaking in the scene.

His interaction with the audience was nothing less than brilliant, whether that be getting a member of the front row to help him sing an Ed Sheeran medley or asking the boys and girls to keep his banana’s safe (which wasn’t one of the many euphemisms used in the play). Buttons’ energy was endless.

However, the stars of the show were yet to arrive. I had previously met the Ugly Sisters, Dyspepsia and Listeria, for an interview a few weeks prior. They didn’t disappoint then and they didn’t disappoint on the night either, never failing to blurt lines full of crude, broad, Scottish slapstick humour.

Dyspepsia was played by Writer and Director Iain Lauchlan who was accompanied by fellow countryman Greg Powrie as Listeria. Both knitted perfectly together like peas in a pod which only added to the free-flowing nature of the play.

After the audience had met these characters, the storyline finally got into full flow.

Three main aspects shone through in the first half of the production. Firstly, the use of props was a prominent feature, as expected. Featuring in most dance routines and, quite frankly, every time Buttons entered the fray, the show wasn’t lacking in that department.

A side-splitting scene in which the Ugly Sisters were shaved and spray tanned included props that a musical theatre production could only dream of. A massive syringe filled with foam and a power paint-spray were two examples.

The second noticeable aspect is that Prince Charming was played – very well – by Bethany Brookes, a woman. Despite producing a near-perfect performance and remaining unwavered by several heckles, the traditionalism that is associated with Cinderella being in love with a hunky male was taken away. It was an elephant in the room but kudos to the Belgrade for not being afraid to break the rules.

However the show-stopping scene came just before the interval. The Fairy Godmother had just revealed to Cinderella that she would indeed go to the ball before producing a tear-jerking power ballad as ‘Cinders’ sat in her carriage whilst her horse lifted off the ground to ‘fly’ and hovered over the front section of the crowd whilst still galloping. Jaw-dropping.

This production was anything but shoe-string.

After a short twenty minute break, the show restarted with the entrance of the Ugly Sisters in yet another outrageous costume, something that was a frequent spectator chuckler.

There were regular realism checks with lines such as “well that didn’t happen in practice” when Listeria slipped on some loose foam and “I’ve waited to do this for 20 years” as Buttons was about to squirt Dyspepsia with grunge bridged the gap between fiction and realism which aided the dynamic of the production.

I’m going to stop describing the play from this point on so I do not give away any further spoilers as I urge you to go and see the play for yourself if you can. It’ll give you a smile wider than a Cheshire cat.

Speaking to audience member and Mum Nicky afterwards, I got a different perspective. She told me that whilst the show was child-friendly, the use of its “quips and euphemisms of adult humour made it as enjoyable for the elder among us.” She concluded by saying it was “an overall great evening out for my family”.

And that pretty much hits the number one target the production was aiming for.

Speaking to Heather Kincaid, PR Officer at the Belgrade Theatre, I asked why Cinderella continues to be such a success.

“It’s the ultimate rags-to-riches tale,” she stated.

“The idea of inequality and injustice certainly still resonate with audiences very much today, and so there’s still a great deal of pleasure in seeing someone good-natured but badly treated like Cinderella getting to triumph over adversity.”

I managed to speak to SODA Musical Theatre Society, made up of senior members Katie Tew, Olivia Young and Lizzie Shaw, about what the significance was behind the Cinderella story.

“One of the reasons Cinderella has lasted through the ages is because of the classic rags to riches tale which is still relevant in today’s society,” they told me.

“Cinderella shows the importance of being kind and forgiving while providing hope and inspiration for children. “It is also a nostalgic tale for parents and of course includes plenty of elements of the classic Disney magic we all know and love.”

The Belgrade Theatre provided just that, successfully delivering the tale of hope, happiness and happy-endings to both the children and adults in the auditorium that night. A job well done.

 

Isaac Johnson

 

 

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