Season's Greetings from all of us on the FringeGuru team! We wish you every success and happiness in 2014. And until then, if you're in Brighton, here's a festive pick to enjoy.
Emporium, Brighton, until 4 January. Details and tickets >>
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory
Emporium’s festive fairy tale Cinders is a magical delight. With some stand-out performances and dazzling costumes, it delivers enough raucous moments to call itself a panto – but it still offers meat for the fairy-story geek or true romantic to enjoy.
The tale itself takes a while to get going. And, since we know where it’s going, I could have done with a bit less of Cinders’ early life; the detail made the first half quite an epic length. But Olivia Langford’s striking performance as young Ella carried this unnecessary exposition through, and once we were on familiar ground things really started to sparkle.
The baddies often have the most fun in these capers, and here was no exception. The Les-Miserables-inspired Wicked Stepmother tore up the stage, and her daughters utterly stole the show. Lucy Mepstead and Natalie Sexton made joyously mean ugly sisters (despite the fact that both of them are completely beautiful – there’s acting for you); their Essex girl delivery made every line hilarious.
The production values in this simple show were high throughout, but particularly in the choreography and the costumes. The showstopping transformations were impressively slick and magical. Smart, yet minimal puppet work, neat visual jokes and impressive energy levels mark the show out as distinctly different, yet a perfectly fine rival to any star-studded provincial panto.
I loved the nods to traditional versions of the story – especially the darker moments – and the pop culture references were fun and not overdone. The script’s jokes weren’t the freshest, but in panto territory a few groaners are to be expected, and the perky cast managed to get laughs out even the creakier lines. However, the reveals about secret rivalries did feel like they were dropped in out of the blue, and the themes of mothers making sacrifices for their children were cast aside in favour of other lessons about sisterhood. Towards the end, it started to feel like anything and everything was being hurled in.
The only takeaway you really need from a story like this is that love triumphs over evil – and of course, we got our happy ending, with the plot threads all tied up neatly. I have only one question still bothering me. What happened to that squirrel?