An overworked Fairy Godmother and a pair of dazzling Ugly Sisters do their best to ensure that the Opera House presentation of Cinderella won't be remembered only as the first for many years to be without Cork's principal - some would say unique - Dame, "Billa" O'Connell. But the determination to overcome this omission by presenting a largely narrative pantomime results in a kind of split-level - or split personality - production, unable to decide whether its target audience is adult or juvenile.
There is apparent indecision, too, in the use of some of the talents mustered for the affair: as a trio Emer Hartnet, Shirley McCarthy and Claire Doyle are among the best singers in Cork but get very little opportunity to display their vocal skills. Pat Kiernan has made a significant name for himself as a director with Corcadorca, but his role of Prince to Doyle's Cinderella lacks the extravagant conviction that pantomime demands from its players.
That comes, at least, from Declan Wolfe's Buttons, from the erratic but enthusiastic band conducted by David Hayes and from the Panto Kiddies and Tiny Tots trained by Donna Daly-Blyth in a lengthy but delightful woodland fantasy routine. The finale shows Joan Hickson's costumes at their best, although the Cinderella ball-gown is restrained, perhaps in keeping with the inefficient transformation scene, and Alan Gallet's sets have the overwrought style appropriate to fairy-tale. But the final curtain brings a sense of opportunities missed: especially in relation to the comic potential of Hartnet and McCarthy and the anarchic flavour Kiernan might have injected had director Marion Wyatt been able to convince us she had decided just what was intended for this year's panto at the Opera House.
Cinderella continues at the Cork Opera House until January 14th; to book phone 0214270022