It’s some years since I last went to see one of Brighton and Hove’s adult pantomimes, and that last time I was far from impressed. The entire thing was a mess of misogynistic gags, bad ones at that, and a few members of the company dragged, forgive the use of the word in a double sense, through laziness and unprofessionalism dragged it whimpering into the gutter. I walked out before the end in disgust.
Last night producer Allan Cardew revived the format with both style, top rating talent and high production values. Director and writer Paul Lawrence has delivered a Cinderella that is steeped in tradition, panto as it should be, and one larded with single entendre. It’s sharp and witty without wallowing in filth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clearly one for the grown ups, the gags are saucy and the references pointed but it never descends into pure filth, close at times but done with a deft hand.
Mr Cardew has lavished attention and money on pulling off this revival of a long running Brighton tradition and it shows. The costumes are superb and plentiful, lots of changes for the drag characters and a very impressive transformation scene for Cinders from rags to rainbow exuberance and on that note let’s talk about the eponymous hero/heroine, not sure how to phrase that in our woke world.
Jason Sutton, AKA Miss Jason, having recently played ugly sister, is now cast as the downtrodden lead, and does it with style. The difference that one of the UK’s favourite drag acts brings is that he can act. Bringing that acting skill to the role means that he is not simply mincing through the part as his drag character, but playing the role as written. He really is once again proving that he has star quality.
Alfie Ordinary is one of the LGBTQ scene’s most charming entertainers and perfectly suited to the role of Butters, and he really knows how to win over the audience with his cheeky persona. Billie Gold is delightful as Fairy Gold. Word perfect from the start her phrasing of her rhyming lines is immaculate, not one line is fluffed, not one quip missed, and the same can be said of her note perfect delivery of her songs. Fairy godmothers are often given very little to do in Cinderella, but on this occasion she has plenty of opportunity to shine and sprinkle magic.
Jason Lee can’t half sing, what a voice but what a fun rendering of the prince, who whilst named Harry had far more the tone of Charles, the one we now call King. His delivery of But Mostly Me from The Book Of Mormon was more than impressive, it was pretty damned perfect.
Allan Jay makes a fine Dandini, suave and eager to please his prince and he too uses that excellent voice to fine effect and dances up a storm too.
The ugly sisters are perhaps the most iconic characters from this classic and the real opportunity for some cheeky fun. So who better than the towering legend of the scene that is Sandra, taunting one poor member of the audience throughout and the Baroness Mary Golds whose smaller stature did not impede here razor tongue. And with a costume change on every entrance they had massive impact.
Finally to Baroness Birdcage played with dark humour by Kara Van Park, sinister, brooding and let’s face it scary, it seemed to come naturally. And in the ball scene given a moment in the limelight delivering an amazing rendition of Kander and Ebb’s brilliant Mama Moreton big number, a ragout that demanded peppering – but who would dare?
Hats off to two young dancers, Luke Nunn and Rowan Newsome, who channeled their inner Fosse in that number but danced their socks off throughout and I will never forget their appearance as tap dancing bumble bees, utterly bonkers but totally unforgettable, choreographer Joey Bethel had certainly licked them into shape, behave, I’m allowed a double entendre of my own surely! And the live musicians, so often missing these days were note and beat perfect, essential when dealing with a wicked cast who would milk every comedy moment from every song, Shaz D and Thomas Earl got it just right.
So all in all a fabulous night of saucy and camp fun, well judged, stylishly delivered and a welcome return for an institution that had fallen into, well fallen into the trap of laziness in every sense. And the good news is that tickets are already on sale for next year, again at Ironworks Studios, with a production of Jack and The Beanstalk. Can they top this one? Oh yes they will!