Forget the scousey puns – the Royal Court has obviously gone through so many variations of “The Scouse…” puns they’ve given up. The Scouse Cinderella does what it says on the tin – and that tin is certainly not for kids.
There’s a beautiful young woman, a pair of ugly sisters, an evil(ish) landowner, a discarded slipper (surely an Ugg boot?) and a lovelorn nice guy. It’s Cinderella, basically, albeit in Liverpool and a hatful of scousey play references. The Scouse Cinderella is perhaps not quite the sum of its parts. But those parts amount to a series of perfectly-executed vignettes.
Chief among them a low-rent Scouse take on the 12 Days of Christmas, performed by Drew Schofield and Paul Duckworth as the two ugly stepsisters. The grisly duo round off a list of takeaways and booze-packed drinks, growing steadily less steady as they down four jagerbombs time and time again throughout the song, which also features steak-and-kidney pies, a shedload of booze and five onion rings.
Keddy Sutton’s turn as a not-so-thinly disguised Joe Anderson, intent on flogging off bits of Liverpool to developers, is a comedy grotesque – almost reminiscent of Melissa McCarthy’s genderflipping turn as White House press officer Sean Spicer. We’ll just assume that Joe took it in better humour that Donald Trump did.
Michael Fletcher and Hayley Hampson do a lot of the heavy lifting as Buttons and Cinders respectively, moving the story along and belting out the songs. Stephen Fletcher as a posh Scouser coming home to build flats is another notional villain, while every Lindzi Germain appearance is a riot but if there’s a problem it’s that there’s not an identifiably evil figure for the audience to boo, but there’s plenty of unabashed laughter.
Where the laughs are particularly satisfying is in the interplay between the cast, forged over ten years of theatre. The duo of Duckworth and Schofield is reminiscent of the Everyman panto’s Keast and Tucker partnership, with corpsing and unashamed scene-stealing.
Liverpool Royal Court Theatre Chief Executive Kevin Fearon makes the most of this by adding a scene where the production goes completely off the rails thanks to production gremlins and fluffed lines – a self-reflexive dash of The Play That Goes Wrong that feels apt given how much the cast break the fourth wall.
It’s a move that might not work so well in a different environment, but this is a well-honed cast (and a well-oiled audience) so it comes off well and is lapped-up by the packed-out theatre. It makes for a very Royal Court Christmas show.
The Scouse Cinderella
Royal Court Theatre
Until 19 January