Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Cinderella and the Beanstalk at Theatre 503
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Cinderella and the Beanstalk at Theatre 503
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Cinderella and the Beanstalk at Theatre 503
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06 Dec REVIEW: Cinderella and the Beanstalk at Theatre503

“It’s a family show,” is usually marketing code for “designed for kids. Grown ups should bring a good book, and anyone coming without a child will be regarded with the suspicion of one peering in a classroom window.” As far as shows with the “family” label go, I’ve come to expect something devoid of any contention, free thinking or, frankly, much in the way of genuinely funny humour. So in arriving determinedly child-free, I admit, I braced myself, and allowed a moment for my pancreas to produce a little extra insulin, before diving into the anticipated wave of nauseating Christmassy saccharine festiveness that I sensed approaching on the horizon.

I was totally, absolutely, completely and utterly wrong. Cinderella and the Beanstalk, it turns out, is doubled-over-with-tears-in-your-eyes funny (yep, that was me), charmingly conceived and brilliantly executed. What Sleeping Trees have created is something that is actually for all the family. It’s brilliant for real littl’uns, for young ones, for young ones that think they’re old, for young adults, for mature adults, and for older adults who refuse to be mature. I would even defy the surliest of teenagers to fail to enjoy it. A smut-free zone, they’ve created a family show where the kids laugh in the same places as the adults (yes, really), that’s frenetic and fun and cleverly chaotic.

Living up to their promise, the cast of three recreate every character you’d expect to find in a pantomime, with some others thrown in for good measure…it’s a bit like a “best of panto” feature, with your favourite bits of all the pantos squashed into one. Only, with a storyline to pull it all together, and the added coup that even the extras have starred in their own feature films.

Writer/performers Joshua George Smith, John Woodburn and James Dunnell-Smith are outstanding in their delivery, and not simply because of their ability to switch character like you might flick between television channels (particularly memorable is Woodburn being both two ugly sisters AND Prince Charming when all three appear on stage together). But between them they have enough charisma to power the whole of England. And maybe some of Scotland. Literally bouncing about the place, they use facial expressions to replace a thousand words, and let’s face it, there’s something rather pleasing about fully grown men with facial hair prancing about a stage in onesies.

With sparse setting and props (but lots of costumes. Lots and lots of costumes), it’s a great touch to have all the music played and mixed on stage by a little elf named Mark. It adds up to a unique show, where your imagination is asked to come along for the ride and is permitted to go completely bonkers. In what other show would you have a word-perfect 2 minute version of Home Alone? Or would Prince Charming not only meet Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, but send them off into the wood together, armed with Excalibur?

The ludicrousness of the writing is really what makes Cinderella and the Beanstalk so great; it’s a show that doesn’t just ask things like, “will Cinderella ever find her Prince Charming?” But also things like, “will he ever accomplish his dream of putting together his own flatpack furniture?” “Will Dick Whittington ever make it to London?” “Will the evil Rumpelstiltskin ever find his golden eggs?” “And whatever did happen to Jack?” The good news is, that having asked the questions, the show promises to answer at least, well, some of them…

In short, frantic, charming and hilarious, I’d definitely go again. And I’d take a group of twenty-something friends, which says a lot for a “family panto.”

For tickets and information:
Venue: Theatre503
Dates: Tuesday 2nd December 2014 – Saturday 10th January 2015
Images: Ian Kitt

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here