Review: Cinderella, Dundee Rep

Theatre

 

Cinderella

Dundee Rep

Until December 31

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

 

I don’t know what Phil Porter, writer of Dundee Rep’s version of Cinderella, has been imbibing, but I’d like some for Christmas. Set on board a boat (the “Floating Cassandra”) which functions as a home for retired magicians, his virtually hallucinogenic reworking of the ancient tale involves a pop culture addicted queen (played by Irene MacDougall), an orphan-turned-prince (Kevin Lennon) who longs to return to his native Butterfly Republic and a Royal frogman. It’s all wonderfully reminiscent of the sixties and seventies, when it seemed obligatory that the makers of children’s TV shows, like Captain Pugwash and Magic Roundabout, be absolutely stark raving bonkers.

   This show is such a crazy retelling of a well-known story as to be almost irresistible. Cinderella (Kirsty MacKay) skivvies on the boat, which is nominally “run” by her useless, widowed father (Robert Paterson). He is soon in thrall to his badminton partner, Mrs Yarg (Ann Louise Ross), a money-grubbing harridan who hails, it seems (and with politically incorrect alacrity), from Latvia.

   Remarkably, despite Porter’s barely sane overhaul of the plot, setting and characters, he actually manages to remain very faithful to the narrative; even if Cinders is carried off to the ball by an over-sized seagull called Gavin. Which is not to say that the show doesn’t occasionally topple into the gratuitously lurid.

   The queen’s X-Factor-style competition to find Prince Daniel a bride is the kind of egregious concession to TV culture which even the Glasgow King’s pantomime eschews these days. The concluding moment, in which Gavin the Seagull defecates on Mrs Yarg, might play well with toilet-obsessed children, but an imaginative denouement it is not.

   Nevertheless, director James Brining (ably assisted by Neil Warmington’s impressive -yet- utilitarian revolving set) can boast one of the most fantastically absurd Christmas shows ever to have been staged in Scotland.

This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on December 18, 2011

© Mark Brown

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