[reviewed for The Public Reviews]
Cut to the Chase at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch
We live in straitened times. So we should not be too surprised to see a cast of seven bringing us the traditional Panto tale of Sleeping Beauty.
But Cut to the Chase, the resident company at the Queen's, made a brilliant job of it. These are not panto specialists, nor telly celebrities on their uppers, but the repertory regulars giving their all in a uniquely home-grown production.
No corners cut in other areas. The sets were splendid; a beautiful architectural castle, the title of the show spelled out in thorn branches, a narrative scene tab, and an impressive Tower Room, reached by flight after flight of stairs on a revolve. The frocks, too, were made in-house: the Dame had the best of them, as is only right. Her housecoat was half-timbered with a thatch on top, she wore a wrap-around sink of dishes for the crockery routine, and for the walk-down she sported a Wife of Bath get-up, complete with horse.
Simon Jessop was Silly Billy, engaging the noisy audience, and selecting John in row C to be a willing stooge. Crusty old King Boris was given a lively performance by Marcus Webb – I loved his Samba with the Dame – Chris MacDonnell's glorious Nanny Clutterbuck, with a wicked tongue and a chesty, raspy delivery of the Les Dawson school. Lucy Thackeray was a winsome Fairy Forget-Me-Not, but no match for Jane Milligan's imposing Carabosse. She had two triumphant numbers, and “infinite skill and centuries of experience”. Sarah Scowen sang prettily as Princess Aurora, with Elliot Harper as her strapping, thigh-slapping, kitchen-boy Tom.
Nicholas Pegg's script had some clever lines in amongst the chestnuts – Camembert and Carbonara the start of a culinary theme, perhaps, and all the original numbers were by the MD, Carol Sloman. No chart covers, X-factor hits or Michael Jackson tributes here [though Susan Boyle was name-checked] but clever songs which, though not memorable, did advance the plot and set the mood - “We're not scared” for the quest, “The Dreaded Love Song”, “Go Ahead and Laugh”.
No chorus, so not a lot of dance routines, though I did appreciate the complex choreography of the Ghost number with Carabosse, which spilled out perilously into the aisles. Helping to people the stage were three teams of eight youngsters, who also were beautifully dressed.
The house was packed with schoolkids, Brownies, and, the night I was there, Mayoral parties with chains of office glinting in the dark. Between us we banished the Wicked Fairy, sang an entirely original song, and gasped at the enormous Dragon, who saved the day and carried most of the cast on his back, high over the auditorium and the swamp of despair.
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