l Charming men

Aaron Hicklin overdoses on four of this year’s bumper crop of Cinderellas.

Panto has a curious appeal. The plots I never change. the gags are ten years , old and the conventions are ? rigorously uniform. Anything less is simply not pantomime. because it‘s the cliches we thrive upon. Let‘s face i it. Cinderella is always going to be ; naive. Buttons will always be cutesy. and the Ugly Sisters will always be. 9 well. ugly.

' For a brief few moments I thought Cinderella ll - The True Story. toured by Theatre Nepotism. would break the magic spell by casting Cinders as a born-again feminist. but it merely takes off where Cinderella I finishes. with our heroine in thrall to a wet Prince Charming and the ugly sisters plotting to separate her from her catch. Playing Tracy Chapman during the interval is nice. if incongurous. but the songs in the play are merely bland. And how Rumpelstiltskin ended up in Cinderella is anyone‘s guess.

When I was a nipper. youth culture was all about Floella Benjamin and Trumpton. These days it‘s all Madonna and television adverts. When Paisley‘s Cinderella asks her audience for a name for her pet mouse. Cuddles vies with Arnold Schwarzenegger. ‘Be nice to your mice and you‘ll never be alone.” sings _

Ben Twist


Lace poison

Ben Twist is excited. He thinks he has on his hands a minor masterpiece which has been parading for years as I an example of Hollywood schmaltz. Arsenic and Old Lace sounds like a Victorian melodrama. but is instead an American farce. immortalised by Frank Capra's 1940s movie and I which Twist describes as ‘anarchic I and very black‘. |

‘I got a big shock when I discovered ' what sort of play it was.‘ says Twist. who is directing the play for Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum. ‘It‘s : much sharper and far less ordinary l than you would think. It‘s not an { Agatha Christie it‘s got a lot more I depth than that. so I‘m aiming for a stylish production that is true to the original. which ran for years and years and years. and I think there‘s something to be said for that.‘ Well. Agatha Christie‘s The Mousetrap has been running for years and years and years. and there‘s nothing to be said for that. The key thing.‘ qualifies Twist. ‘is that you have two old ladies who ought to be innocent. who ought to be sweet. and in all their behaviour are so. but who actually aren‘t.

Cinders. Perhaps not. but who wants company from a mouse called The Terminator?

It’s a lively audience at Paisley and David Wallace‘s script knows exactly what the kids want. A version of Madonna‘s ‘Vogue'. performed by four young girls in lurex costumes and an Ugly Sister in a pointed bra is comlemented by a series of gags inspired. among other things. by Nescafe adverts and Saddam Hussein. Popular culture. bettered only by the Brunton Theatre. Musselburgh. with a neat pastiche of Vic Reeves‘s ‘Dizzy'. and a superb Blind Date sketch.

In fact. the Brunton Theatre has found its niche with a Cinderella that easily outshines most of the company‘s other productions this season. Dominic Grant looks far more comfortable as an L'eg Sister than he did as Heathcliff. and Rebecca Tremain gives new meaning to the Stepmother. adopting the guise of Morticia and fully playing up to the audience on a set straight out of The Addams


Pantomime can be trite to the point of retching. but it can also be incredibly violent. During the course

of four Cinderella’s the Ugly Sisters ruptured themselves on spikes. were electrocuted. sucked up by a giant vacuum cleaner and had their heads split open with a chisel. And how we tittered.

Stanley Baxter. who suffers most of these ignominies. is the Jimmy Connors of panto. having announced. and then retracted. his retirement almost as many times. In fine fettle as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella at the King’s Theatre. Glasgow. his lavish. and frankly ludicrous costumes (a spring onion. a golf caddy and an ice-cream. among other things) is only matched by his surroundings. This is an all-singing. all-dancing. all-clowning production which clearly spares no expense. but you can‘t help feeling that it's a little tired at the edges. and rather lacking in originality.

Being told by a thousand screaming kids that ‘she‘s behind you' every day for three months is my idea of purgatory. Stanley Baxter has been doing it for most of his life. and still doesn't weary of it. The kids love him. and so do their grandparents. Along with the deliciously exaggerated sets. the appalling one-liners and the excruciating songs. Stanley Baxter is an essential component of this high-camp experience we call panto. Cinderella, Brunton Theatre. Musselburgh. until Sat 4 Jan.

( 'inderella. K ing '3 Theatre. Glasgow. until Sat 22 Feb.

( 'inderella. Paisley Arts Centre. until Tue 29 December.

Cinderella II The True Story. Theatre Nepotism. Renfield St Stephen's. Bath Street. Glasgow, until Sat 2/ Dec.

That‘s the sharpness of the play. that's where the writing undermines all the conventions. All the old ladies in Agatha Christie are nice.‘

Twist admits that the play has no message, but suggests that a sense of period illuminates certain issues of the day. ‘The debate about whether America should enter the war is referred to and adds a little more depth to the characters.‘ he says. ‘For that reason it becomes a much more rounded play than a traditional thriller or farce.’

Solid. safe entertainment in other words. No risks. but plenty to gain if it brings in the audiences. the criterion for much of the Royal Lyceum’s current season. ‘It’s a terrifically crafted piece of theatre.‘ says Twist. ‘I‘m not trying to put a great 805 or 905 interpretation on it. because I think ifI tamper with it I‘ll wreck it. It creates a world very clearly, which is slightly timeless. so you get into all sorts of bother trying to reinterpret it.

‘I think it‘s very exciting to see an audience having a good time in a theatre, and I think this is a play which does that. It has a power of its own, and it works.‘ (Aaron Hicklin) Arsenic and Old Lace, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. Fri 10 Jan—Sat 1 Feb.

Snow joke

There's a funny moment in the Citizens’ Snow Queen. A Lapp woman has just been introduced to us by two life-size, talking polar bears. They seem to like her and she seems to like them. The latter affection is much easier to understand because the woman is sitting on a rug made out of one of the bears’ cousins. No one seems to laugh, though. That’s probably because

'they‘ve been conditioned, in the hour and a hall that precedes this comic interlude, never to raise the flicker of a smile again.

The Snow Queen certainly looks beautiful, and it rounds off a stunning yearior designerJullan McGowan. It has an evil witch, a hem and heroine. it even cuts out the love interest by making hero and heroine also brother and sister. But where is the comedy? We need more than Sandy Welch donning a crow suit to appeal to the under-tens. Where is the empathy with the audience? Saying, ‘her mother makes hertidy her room every day' and ‘lsn't school awful?’ is hardly the stuff

3 rs .= ‘{‘

f" i t J. The Snow Queen: beautiful but dull

oi a tuned-in writer.

Myles Rudge's script is simply dull. The characters are made to dawdle from one set-piece scene to another, each one as bland (in all but design) as the last. Mandy Matthews and Ronnie McCann do their best to rescue matters but they do not get much support from the rest of a cast which is understandany uninspired. The kids‘ around me talked the whole way through and i don’t blame them.

There is a much livelier performance

on offer across town at the Arches. Alice is not one oi your standard pantos but, given this kind oi treatment, it’s difficult to see why it has been so neglected. The velocity is set on ‘hlgh' all the way through. White Rabbit (Andy Barr) is a pelvic-thrusting Elias-impersonator, the music by Grant Smeaton is fun and lively and Alice (Fiona Bell) gets the audience on her side from the first scene with some extremely un-Christmas-Iike treatment oiherpetcat

The latter is just one example of the way in which director Andy Arnold and writer Connie Stewart understand their audience. The adults were shaking their heads in disbelief when the Queen asked, ‘Who wants their head cut oil?’ and a deafening chorus of ‘Me, Me, Me' erupted all around us. The executioner’s ‘Have a nice day’ T-shirf is a similarly assured touch. Decapitation, farting, animal abuse and a hairy-chested queen—that's what the kids love to see, not the pomp(oslty) of The Snow Queen. (Philip Parr) The Snow Queen, Cltlzens' Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 18 Jan. Alice Through the Looking Glass, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 4 Jan.

58 The List 20 December 1991 - 16 January 1992