It’s Christmas and the rise of fringe and West End pantomimes are slowly mounting with shows such as Cinderella And The Beanstalk. The quirky and slick geniuses behind the writer-performer company Sleeping Trees (James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua George Smith and John Woodburn) have managed to exceed expectations with their crazy show on Theatre 503’s stage, situated above a public house in Clapham.
The three performers act, sing and dance energetically on an intimate and green-grassed stage with two fluffy clouds in the background. Wooden boxes filled with all sorts of bits and bobs also take up the stage for their fast and unlimited-fairy-tale-character of a show. It doesn’t immediately plunge into Cinderella and the Beanstalk though; it has a parallel plot of them in crisis where their supposed real actors, who were meant to play the 40+ characters, hadn’t turned up. Naturally the team does a marvellous job of conjuring the oddest and funniest characters. Watch how John masters the act of Prince Charming and the two Ugly Sisters while Joshua plays the Fairy Godmother, Mr Cow and the evil muppet, Rumpelstiltskin. Cross-dresser Dunnell-Smith also looks fetching as Cinderella, Jafar, from Aladdin, and the Genie of the Lamp. It may sound random but – trust me – it works!
Children and adult audiences can enjoy this high speed mash-up of off-the-cuff talented acts, with the most memorable rhymes and musical tunes orchestrated with minimal equipment: a drum machine, electronic keyboard and chimes orchestrated by actor-musician Mark Newnham: he provides all the necessary notes and sound effects a pantomime could ever need.
There are other components of a panto that weren’t missed out either such as an active audience willingly participating which adds buckets of liveliness to the show – not that these guys needed it; the audience, including myself, were in stitches and had tears pouring out of our eyes from all the laughter, hilarious lines and spilt wine. The audience stood on their feet, ran as fast as they could (on the spot), sang songs back to the stage and shouted the usual panto lines like ‘he’s behind you!’
Everyone of all ages can get involved, and with the humour being PG you won’t find the boys saying a word wrong. Other moments to enjoy were the unexpected ones, which the original fairy tale didn’t have but made the show zanier. On Cinderella’s journey to retrieve the golden eggs, Mr Cow goes into labour, and when the Prince proposes a fight with the evil Rumpelstiltskin, Jafar, Dick Whittington and other wicked characters enter as his crony fighters.
One can tell that the James, Joshua and John have a great time on stage and were passionate about the pantomime’s script; this was felt by the audience. With great direction by Tom Attenborough, lighting by Ali Hunter and costume help by Simon A Wells, the show feels polished and ready yet, it is best presented in a small venue, ideal for the Theatre 503, for an up-close and cosy experience. It truly is a laughing marathon of a show and certainly made my Friday night trek to south London worthwhile. I hadn’t cried this much in a long time.
Review by Mary Nguyen
Cinderella and the Beanstalk
Award-winning comedy trio Sleeping Trees are doing a pantomime. But this is a three-man pantomime with a twist! This world premiere (also Theatre503’s first ever festive family show), directed by critically-acclaimed Tom Attenborough, blends the classic elements of a well-loved pantomime with an astonishing range of fast paced, physical and bare-knuckled comedy.
Cinderella and the Beanstalk: A festive treat for those who like their Christmas pantos with a twist.
Josh, John and James have written a pantomime. It’s a riotous adventure with a whole host of exciting characters. They have fashioned the props, hired the costumes, booked the venue and rigged the lights; the stage is set. But on arriving at the theatre they realise they have forgotten one vital component: a cast.
A glorious cocktail of your favourite pantomimes! Follow Cinderella on a perilous adventure as the scheming Rumple Stiltskin blackmails the would-be princess into retrieving the coveted golden eggs from the top of the beanstalk.
Cinderella must complete her quest in order to recover her glass slipper, but with Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother and Jack’s pregnant cow all doing their best to get in the way, these delicious, oversized eggs may not be so easily sought out…
Join these three performers as they recreate every character you’d expect to find in a Pantomime, as well as some you might not… whilst still doing their best to sing, dance and fight their way through ninety minutes of panto pandemonium.
Cinderella and the Beanstalk
2 December – 10 January (see below for specific performance times)
£15/£12, with a £10 under 16 ticket. Pay what you can Sundays.
£40 Family Offer. See Cinderella and Beanstalk as a group of 4 people for just £40. Just add 4 tickets to your basket (minimum 2 child tickets and 1 adult) and the discount will be applied automatically.
Suitable for ages 8+