Cinderella review – Lyric theatre, Hammersmith

Image above: Cinderella at the Lyric, Hammersmith, the company; photograph Manuel Harlan

The biggest ball in west London

As Christmas hurtles ever closer, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre brings us its 15th annual pantomime. This year’s production is a ‘brand new take’ on Cinderella from the pen of award-winning comedian, actor and composer Vikki Stone.

Tilly La Belle Yengo makes for a sympathetic Cinderella, here updated as a sassy “boss-lady” selling diminutive clothes for rodents in Shepherd’s Bush Market (definitely a niche that no-one else has spotted!).

Most of the laugh-out-loud moments come when Emmanuel Akwafo takes the stage as the inevitable Dame, Lady Jelly Bottom, a terrifying yet exhilarating combination of Margaret Thatcher and B. A. Baracus from ‘The A Team’. Akwafo plays the part with great energy, mining his/her ridiculous character name for a string of ‘cheeky’ jokes and donning an array of wonderfully outrageous costumes.

Images above: (L) Tilly La Belle Yengo as Cinderella; (R) Emmanuel Akwafo as the dame; photographs Manuel Harlan

The cast as a whole is excellent and special mention must go to the often overlooked ensemble, who inhabited every one of the more minor roles with infectious enthusiasm and perfect comic timing.

For extra appeal to the many children in the audience, they even had to spend much of the performance sweating inside giant gerbil costumes. In spite of this, Jerome Lincoln stood out with his stage presence and is surely someone to watch for the future.

Images above: (L)  Jodie Jacobs and Damien James; (R) Meghan Treadway; photographs Manuel Harlan

Music is always vital to the lifeblood of a good pantomime. Composer and arranger Corin Buckeridge gives us a series of dynamic, frothy showstoppers alongside slick choreography from Arielle Smith.  Hits such as Pulp’s Disco 2000 and Taylor Swift’s ‘Anti-Hero’ are given the full panto treatment.

There is much to praise about the production and only a few obvious flaws – some of the vocals are a little shaky here and there and what should be a hilarious audience participation sketch, involving the cracking of eggs on Lady Jelly Bottom’s firm backside, fizzles out rather disappointingly.

My abiding feeling as the curtain fell was that something was missing, that elusive and hard to define ‘X-factor’. The show is colourful and fun and generates much warmth and goodwill but never quite transcends from a ‘good night out’ to a ‘sensational’ one. I left with a smile on my face but no aching ribs.

Scott Michell