As one of London’s most deprived areas, Barking could do with a bit of Christmas cheer and the Broadway’s defiantly upbeat annual pantomime has it against all the odds. At a time when the theatre has been left reeling from council funding cuts, and the tatty chicken shops and boarded-up buildings outside have yet to go away, this version of Cinderella – with her journey from poverty to princess – feels less like an age-old fantasy than modern-day wishful thinking. But if punchy performances, a magical set and uplifting enthusiasm could be converted into cash, it would be gold coins rather than sweets raining down upon the auditorium.
In the Broadway’s first co-production with Arc – which works with communities and young people – director/producer Carole Pluckrose steers clear of anything too political. Sharif Afifi’s prince is a posh boy who owns an estate rather than coming from one, but Amy Green’s likeable Cinderella is nice enough not to question their differing circumstances too much.
It’s largely a traditional take, but made fresh with an east London twist. Dean Kilford is a Pearly King-inspired Buttons, while Ian Crowe and Andy Gillies’ punk ugly sisters Nefaria and Lascivia are brilliantly blokey.
As ever, the chorus of local young people – many of whom deserve to be talent spotted – is one of the highlights, as is musical director Phil Gostelow’s ridiculously infectious score.
Broadway Theatre, London. Until 02 January
Written for The Stage