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Soho Cinders at Charing Cross Theatre | Review

Soho Cinders - Pamela Raith Photography.
Soho Cinders – Pamela Raith Photography.

There are no big scene changes in this production. The stage is never filled with the kind of street clutter that prevents a speedy progress through the actual Old Compton Street and surrounding environs. Some preceding shows at Charing Cross Theatre have not been so sparing, but it is indicative here of the faith that the production places in the dialogue. Thus, the audience is made aware of a particular scene’s setting by, for instance, the air of authority that William George (Ewan Gillies) exercises as campaign manager for mayoral candidate James Prince (Lewis Asquith) in the campaign office, or because the off-stage narrator (unnamed in the programme, so I won’t spoil it by spilling the beans here) has simply told us that young Robbie (Luke Bayer) is in Trafalgar Square.

Soho Cinders already shows occasional signs of not quite keeping up with the times. The references that the ‘ugly’ (inverted commas mine) sisters in this retelling and resetting of the Cinderella story, Clodagh (Michaela Stern) and Dana (Natalie Harman), make in ‘Fifteen Minutes’ are contemporary enough, but there’s a moment when someone points out that someone else can’t be gay because that someone else has a wedding ring on. Elsewhere, Prince leaves a voicemail message for someone, asking them to text him back, surely the kind of mobile phone communication that would be done these days through a WhatsApp message or something.

Bayer’s Robbie manages to convey a sense of unease and vulnerability whilst commanding a stage presence that brims with an almost serene confidence. Robbie’s work colleague and best friend Velcro (Millie O’Connell) is just as engaging, possessing one of those singing voices that is nothing short of sublime. The show was, of course, written before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements began. It is pleasing to note how forward-thinking the show was by including a portrayal of how workplace harassment is successfully challenged, as opposed to being ignored or even dismissed. It is also something of an indictment on current society that not much, if anything, has changed, at least in the political sphere.

‘Nothing has changed’, to quote a former Prime Minister, extends to the bankrolling of candidates to political office by wealthy benefactors behind the scenes. Lord Bellingham (Christopher Coleman) is almost constantly on George’s case, to the point where one wonders if Bellingham may as well be campaign manager himself. Not that Robbie, the ‘Cinderella’ invited to the ‘ball’ – I really mustn’t give too much away – cares too much for the inner workings of city politics. And why should he? For reasons made clear in the narrative, he has plenty of his own problems to try and sort out.

As someone who doesn’t often appreciate the use of background sounds to supplement dialogue in productions, it is wonderful to listen to on-stage conversations going on in a theatre where it is possible to hear a pin drop. That said, not all of them are altogether riveting, and there’s a part of me that thinks that Old Compton Street would ordinarily be at least a little louder than the suburban living room ambience this production sometimes creates.

The songs are sufficiently varied. Perhaps the stand-out number is ‘I’m So Over Men’, which sees Clodagh and Dana bring the house down through what is probably best described as vocal gymnastics. Adam Haigh’s choreography is often energetic and delightful. The story’s morals are somewhat more complex than the traditional fairy tale from which this show is loosely based, but this production ultimately strikes a good balance between poignancy and enthusiasm. After all, “life’s a circus in Old Compton Street”.

When impoverished student Robbie becomes romantically involved with engaged London Mayoral candidate James Prince, his lap-dancing step-sisters become the least of his problems! James and Robbie’s worlds collide, forcing them to fight for their own fairy-tale ending. Celebrating London’s most colourful district and mixing politics, sex-scandals and true love, Soho Cinders is a deliciously naughty musical update of the Cinderella story with an infectious score that you’ll be humming long past the stroke of midnight!

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Cast: Luke Bayer, Millie O’Connell, Lewis Asquith, Tori Hargreaves, Ewan Gillies, Michaela Stern, Natalie Harman, Christopher Coleman, Ben Darcy, Luke Byrne, Danny Lane, Thomas Ball, Melissa Rose, Savannah Reed, Laura Fulgenzi, Jade Bailey.

Creative Team: Director Will Keith, Choreographer Adam Haigh, Musical Director Sarah Morrison, Associate Musical Director Joe Louis Robinson, Set Designer Justin Williams, Lighting Designer Jack Weir, Sound Designer Andrew Johnson, Costume Designer Nicole Garbett, Casting Director Harry Blumenau

Will Keith for Theatre Syndicate London and Starting Over Theatricals Ltd in association with Kyle Tovey for AKT Management present
Soho Cinders

Music by George Stiles
Lyrics by Anthony Drewe
Book by Anthony Drewe & Elliot Davies

24th October – 21st December 2019
Mon – Sat 7.30pm
Thu & Sat matinee 3.00pm
12+/Parental discretion is advised

Running time approx 2hrs 30mins including interval
Charing Cross Theatre

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