If audience warmth and enthusiasm could be responsible for star ratings alone, then Friday night at the Brunton Theatre’s Cinderella would have registered an eleven.
* * *
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
Opening on the right foot with a confident first act, infused with cheeky gags about the ugly sisters, a lovelorn Buttons and some soulful soloing by Cinders, the show swept along at pace.
Working to his strengths, director and writer Mark Cox brought Fairy Godmother Wulma, (Shonagh Price), and ugly sisters Dougaleeena, (Richard Conlon) and Grizelda (Mark McDonnell) to the fore with lively sketches and cheery panto banter.
Working to traditional narrative, all the usual festive boxes were ticked to the delight of the audience.
Conlon and McDonnell’s natural stage chemistry and assured comic delivery created an engaging buzz that carried the rest of production somewhat more than it should have.
Derek McGhie’s Buttons connected well with the audience, although his scenes were often underused.
Sean Hay’s Baron was an enjoyable foil to the manipulative machinations of the sisters and their bullying of downtrodden half-sister Cinders.
A cohesive and well orchestrated creative team made for skillful scene transitions and crisp, if loud, sound quality.
By the end of the first act, the odds looked good on a resoundingly successful finale. Post interval, however, the weaknesses in the production’s plotting, direction and character development began to show instead.
Duetting beautifully together, it’s easy to see why Kirsty Halliday, as Cinderella, and Blair Robertson, as Prince Jamie, were cast opposite each other. Yet writer Cox’s lengthy romance with the ugly sisters in the first act left no room for either character to have developed even one dimension, meaning there was a significant lack of any romantic chemistry between the leads or dramatic conflict.
Cinderella’s distinct lack of personality was problematic in the extreme, it shouldn’t require the rest of the cast to tell us to like her.
Without the narrative framework of the original story to fall back on, the second act delivered very little, a number of potentially dramatic moments were completely buried in a hasty rush to the finale.
The positive energy of the audience and good will of the first act helped the story coast to a cheerful ending but never quite achieved the emotional investment it had the potential to elicit from the viewer.
Runs ends January 2