Review: Soho Cinders, Charing Cross Theatre

This amiable revival of Soho Cinders makes for an alternative festive treat at the Charing Cross Theatre

“Hoping for the hum-drum,
Is that aiming high”

I have great affection for Stiles & Drewe’s musical Soho Cinders, from its concert beginnings to a starry Soho Theatre production to a warm revival at the Union Theatre, its escapist fun nature and tuneful score remain quietly appealing. And it is that last Union production that has been reconceived for a new run at the Charing Cross Theatre, featuring some of the same cast members and beefed up with newcomers from Six and Jamie.

The show is a loose LGBT+ adaptation of the Cinderella story, updated to a contemporary London setting, albeit an improbably affordable and innocent pre-smartphone age. Robbie is a young man struggling to make ends meet with his Old Compton Street laundrette and consequently dallying with a sugar daddy, despite simultaneously hooking up with prospective mayoral candidate James Prince, who just happens to have a fiancée. It’s a daft plot but amiable, even if it doesn’t bear too much close scrutiny (clandestine meetings in Trafalgar Square?!). Continue reading “Review: Soho Cinders, Charing Cross Theatre”

Review: Soho Cinders, Union Theatre

“Why don’t handsome princes
Practice what they preach”

Though there’s nothing ostensibly Christmassy about Stiles + Drewe’s Cinderella remake Soho Cinders, it was still a little odd to see the show debut at the Soho Theatre in the height of summer in 2012. This revival at the Union Theatre is a little more festively timed and through Will Keith’s direction and Joanne McShane’s choreography, provides a level of entertainment to rival even the best of pantomimes.

The book, by Drewe and Elliot Davis, puts a gay spin on the story – fresh-faced escort Robbie is our Cinderella, closeted bisexual London mayoral candidate James Prince his Prince Charming, and older gay man (and client) Lord Bellingham just one of the flies in the ointments of their happy ever after. But though we’re in the world of contemporary London politics, there’s also a pair of ‘ugly’ sisters and a ball that everyone wants to attend to ensure some of that Cinderella magic sticks. Continue reading “Review: Soho Cinders, Union Theatre”

Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Landor

“They try to figure out what makes her tick”

Described as a musical faerytale, Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter aims to create the feeling of a story from the Brothers Grimm but in actual fact, has come up with an astonishingly assured piece of original musical theatre. Set in the fictional Irish town of Spindlewood, the story delves into the myth behind the statue of a young girl in the town square – a tale of grieving inventor Abraham and of Constance, a girl not like the others, and how she touches the lives of the townspeople around her despite their pettiness and prejudices. 

David Shields’ remarkable design work is some of the best the Landor has ever seen, an all-encompassing vision that properly transforms the theatre and transports the audience to a different, magical, place. Cleverly conceived and carefully constructed, its various pieces work…well…like clockwork. And this ambition is matched in the scope of the writing and the score, combining the epic with the intimate, the emotional with the entertaining, the folkloric with the universal in what emerges as a deeply moving tale. Continue reading “Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Landor”

Review: The Mother, The Scoop at More London

“When I die I want to be able to say this, ‘I never did anything violent’”

Paired with Around the World in 80 Days as part of the free theatre season at The Scoop at More London, Brecht’s The Mother is a little performed play from 1932 telling of a woman living in a Russia on the cusp of revolution who is forced into a new world of political activism when she sees how her own activist son is treated by the authorities. As she meets with his friends and begins to engage with their agenda, she finds herself on a journey of personal growth, as she finally learns to read and as her political consciousness is awakened and becomes impassioned, she becomes a figurehead for the movement that her son is part of.

Though it is a story that is ultimately advocating Communism, the decision to keep the setting fairly loose and not tethered too tightly to its original time and location frees it up hugely and consequently scores a huge resonance in its examination of the issues around political dissidence and the right to demonstrate in public, particularly for young people. Ravenhill’s translation has a punchy directness and humanity that gives the political discussion a very relatable dimension through the figure of ‘The Mother’, played with tireless grace by Nicky Goldie, her concern for her son accompanied by a growing outrage at how she perceives society to be rotten and pushes for change. Continue reading “Review: The Mother, The Scoop at More London”

Review: Around the World in 80 Days, The Scoop at More London

“Everybody dreams of a little adventure”

As part of the free theatre available at The Scoop at More London which is now in its 9th impressive year, Around the World in 80 Days is a streamlined version of Phil Willmott’s original production for the Battersea Arts Centre 10 years ago which truncates the action in 75 swift minutes, accompanied by a suite of catchy original songs by Annemarie Lewis Thomas. It is freely adapted from Jules Verne’s novel and so whilst the shape of Phileas Fogg’s journey, the result of a wager to traverse the globe in an unheard-of 80 days, remains the same, the action is enlivened with highly recognisable figures from Victorian England passing comment on his progress.

It is fast and furious and lots of good-natured fun. Eugene Washington’s stern Fogg is tempered by the lovable antics of Joseph Wicks’ Passepartout, his able assistant, and when they rescue the Princess Aouda – a personable turn from Suzanne Ahmet – from an Indian funeral pyre, even Fogg’s stony heart begins to melt as his eyes are opened to the vast cultural influences to which he is exposed as they journey through Asia – helped memorably by a grumpy elephant through the Indian jungle, mounted with great style – and then through the USA – with a great song set in Salt Lake City which predates The Book of Mormon by at least a decade! – before trying to make it back in time to England to settle the bet. Continue reading “Review: Around the World in 80 Days, The Scoop at More London”