Grand Opera House, Belfast
Roald Dahl hit the nail on the head when he began his own acerbic version of the Cinderella story with the observation that the original was pretty gory but that "the phoney one, the one you know ... was made to sound all soft and sappy, just to keep the children happy". Packed houses at the Grand Opera House pantomime testify to the fact that, whatever the tale, soft and sappy certainly does keep the children happy.
Amid the glitter and sparkle, the spectacular sets and costumes, the predictable elements are firmly in place but this year the rags to riches tale has been spiced up with a welcome injection of subversive humour. The usual dollop of audience abuse comes courtesy of dame May McFettridge, resplendent in pink and entering proceedings aboard a crescent moon; there are cheesy love songs between Jayne Wisener’s pretty Cinders and Gareth Gates’s low-key but rather engaging Prince, raucous rap and pop in Mark Dougherty’s songscape and oodles of downright daftness generated by the Double Trouble comedy duo and Michael Joseph’s over-exuberant Buttons.
But hurrah for a mischievous sketch involving Gates, Wisener, Joseph and a brick wall, in which dignity and po-faced posturing are thrown to the wind. The grotesque siblings Amanda and Alesha are played with relish by fine local actors Gerard McCabe and Tommy Wallace, fresh from their camp double act in Gary Mitchell's Smiley at the Lyric over the summer and a canny piece of casting from the production team.
Until January 15