by Erik Abbott
For the uninitiated—as I largely was—traditional British Panto may seem to be an acquired taste. It is perhaps more accurately described as a remembered taste. For those who can channel their inner seven-year-old and allow their giggle instinct free rein, and who remember believing that no joke can be funnier than one that involves nose-picking, merriment is the reward at the Chateau de Bettembourg, where the British company Two Shades of Blue has brought its rollicking production of Cinderella for a weekend run.
The company, with support from Pirate Productions (including a cameo by Box Office Queen Pamela Carlisle), has returned for another raucous tour to Luxembourg.
It’s all here—the relentless silliness, the slapstick, the corny jokes (most of which are quite funny), the audience participation, the obligatory (spoiler alert) happy ending—all presented in the form’s over-the-top style. The result is almost always fun and, crucially, funny.
Solid cast in live-action cartoon
The cast is more than up to the demands of what is, at its core, a big garish live-action cartoon. Dominic Mattos is terrific as Goodheart, the Fairy Godmother, with a lovely singing voice and stage presence that outshines even the acreage of taffeta s/he wears.
Mattos frames the story and sets the never-very-serious-but-always-very-important tone, peppered with wry asides to make sure the adults are still paying attention. Goodheart also steers the action towards its proper conclusion, with guile and magic. (The pumpkin-carriage effect is quite nifty.)
Thomas Woolley as Buttons, the comic lead, is also very good. His is the work-a-day job of instructing and leading the audience in its various cheers and songs and choreography (which is fortunately not too difficult). With an elastic face and fine voice, he is both sympathetic and funny and is spot on in capturing the right spirit, never condescending and always having at least as much fun as the audience.
Louise Sherlock is a winsome and appealing Cinderella, with an inner strength and pluckiness that makes us root for her from the beginning. She is pitted against her hideous ugly stepsisters, the wonderfully named Vuvuzella (Ben Parker) and Emphesema (Chris Coomber), who execute their gloriously, triumphantly, hilariously bad drag with aplomb. Looking at times like cast members of one of those train-wreck reality television shows no one wants to admit to watching, they are as much fun to boo as they are to watch. (This is a good thing.)
Chirag Goyote lives ups to his character’s name as Prince Charming and is strongly supported by Lydia Menzies as his valet, Dandini, the Principal Boy role. Menzies is a Cockney delight and her desperate attempts to escape the lecherous advances of Vuvuzella and Emphesema are particularly fun.
Loads of laughs and fun for the whole family
With music borrowed from such disparate sources as Disney, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Queen (Freddy Mercury would surely have been pleased), and endless diversionary gags (the audience at one point is cautioned to pay attention because a plot point is coming), it is one chortle after another.
There were a few minor first-night-on-the-road glitches—which the cast appropriately used as fodder for more laughs—but on the whole the experience is one any child should love. And it will defy any curmudgeonly adult not to get drawn in.
When and Where
Cinderella continues at the Chateau de Bettembourg, January 25 and 26 at 5.30pm and also at 2.00pm on the 26th.
Tickets: +352 356339 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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