Hats off to the Bolton Octagon for always trying to push the boundaries when it comes to their Christmas shows. From Alice in Wonderland to last year’s BFG the northern theatre has shunned the traditional panto and instead presented their audiences with contemporary productions to delight them over the festive season. You’d be forgiven for thinking they had changed tact this year with Cinderella being their production of choice for 2016 but, as ever with the Octagon, it has a clever twist!
Told through the eyes of five charismatic rats; Whiskers (Alexander Bean), Claws (Alicia McKenzie), Teeth (Anne O’Riordan), Tail (Felicity Sparks) and Ears (Tomas Wolstenholme) this is a modern day version of the fairy-tale classic, jam-packed with live music and audience participation.
The show starts with the rats lamenting over the fact that Cinderella has left them to go and live a new life at the Palace. One by one the energetic rodents don costumes to take on different roles and explain just how Cinders went from rags to riches.
All five actors excel at creating some well-rounded characters but the leader of the pack has to be Anne O’Riordan who puts in a sparkling performance as Teeth. ‘Pocket rocket’ O’Riordan is delightful as she exudes cheekiness and has both the children and adults laughing along at her facial expressions and ‘dodgy’ dancing.
The cast of six is completed by Lucy Faint as Cinderella whose northern accent brings a down to earth charm to the role and she manages to make her both vulnerable and straight-talking. There’s some great moments when Faint journeys into the audience sitting next to them to sing a song, making the children’s jaws drop as a result.
Don’t be fooled by Ellen Nabarro’s set design, (which at first glance looks like a cluttered space filled with a centrepiece of musical instruments from piano to xylophone), everything used to dress the stage cleverly doubles up as a prop or a costume and can be returned back to the set when it’s finished with. The lighting is one of the true stars of this production though as the stage transforms into a magical space filled with hundreds of lightbulbs, topped off by a huge glitterball hanging from the ceiling and even lights in Cinders ballgown!
If you are looking for something a bit different this Christmas then look no further, the Bolton Octagon’s blown the cobwebs off an old fashioned fairy-tale and produced a great offering for all the family.
Cinderella runs at the Bolton Octagon until 14th January 2017