Business is brisk at the Waterfront Hall, as well it might be, given the grand old times that have been had here during the past three Ulster Theatre Company pantomimes. But with UTC artistic director Michael Poynor busy getting his feet under the table as Chief Executive of the soon-to-open Millennium Theatre in Derry, another company, Pantoworld, has been brought in from across the water to provide the Christmas cheer. Writer/director Gordon Pleasant has been able to retain the services of star performers Sean Kearns and Sheelagh O'Kane, whose massive stage presences, on the one hand, keep the show on the road and, on the other, threaten its precarious balance with the power and energy of their performances. The main problem with this Cinderella is that there is simply not enough of it. The script is bland, the music is of the taped variety, with no catchy pop songs for the kids to sing along to, and there is little evidence of the biting Belfast humour that is always guaranteed to get an audience going.
Having said that, Kearns's and O'Kane's incredibly ugly sisters, Celine and Dionne, are on the attack from the word go, squeezing out every possible laugh and working the audience like mad. The youthful Packy Lee, already a pantomime veteran, keeps up the work rate as a hugely appealing Buttons. And Olivia Nash is a clucky, motherly Fairy Godmother, much in the style of her popular television characters. It is difficult for Lucy Close, Conleth Kane and Dean McHugh to live with this formidable quartet and it was not the wisest decision to cast them in the lead roles of Cinderella, Prince Charming and Dandini in their very first professional pantomime appearances.
Cinderella continues at the BT Studio of the Waterfront Hall until January 13th. To book, phone 048-90334455.
Front Row returns on January 4th