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New spin on an old tale

A scene from Voila! Cinderella - A Chirstmas Pantomime at Museum Theatre in Chennai. Photo: M. Vedhan

A scene from Voila! Cinderella - A Chirstmas Pantomime at Museum Theatre in Chennai. Photo: M. Vedhan  

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At the Little Theatre’s 20th Christmas pantomime, the audience were transported to a land far, far away

A flurry of noise greets us when we enter Museum Theatre. It’s chaotic, and filled with more children than there is space, as The Little Theatre gets ready to put on its main production of the year: the Christmas Pantomime.

Telling the story of Cinderella with a dash of local flair, the pantomime is old wine in a new bottle.

Twenty years of successful shows is what the panto, as it is fondly called by regulars, celebrates this year. From producer Aysha Rau’s constant stream of directions to the cast, to artistic director Krishnakumar’s frantic and constant instructions as the cast prepares for yet another show, it looks like they’re determined to make this one their best.

Soon the doors open and the curtains go up. As Aysha takes the stage and explains the rules (audience participation is key here — much to the delight of the children) we’re ready to be transported to a land far, far away.

The story begins with three men on stage, cracking jokes about punctuality. The children are responsive and the adults chuckle. Next is a town jester with his trusty steed: a talking donkey. They are amusing, but we begin to wonder about Cinderella.

And she enters, apron and all, the sudden song and dance that follows between her and her step-family is quite abrupt. As it turns out, it’s time for the ball.

As always there's a villain, who we hiss and boo at enthusiastically.

Like any self-respecting villain, he has ambitious plans: to take over the world. Add twin princes that fight over “Cindy” and their transgender nanny who prances through the audience, planting kisses on unsuspecting viewer.

It's all humorous in a strange, “I don’t know what I’m watching” sort of way. This isn't the Cinderella story we grew up on — it’s more of a Cinderella-inspired story that meanders all over the place in a happy, self-indulgent sort of way.

The pantomime is certainly fun for the first hour and a half, but by intermission, a good two hours later, I am restless.

The children are adorable and the way the light hits the stage paints a pretty picture but I'm acutely aware that there's one more hour of this story to go. Between the glitz and the glitter, I have sneakily taken two whispered phone calls and written my own version of the play in my head. Beside me, my companion checks his watch desperately.

It is, as Aysha says, “an amateur production with an amateur cast,” many of whom are children; and so we stay, whistle and clap till the production comes to an unpredictable end.

As we walk out, we’re left with the image of Cindy in her silver-gowned splendour. I guess she was never Cinderella after all.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 10:44:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/new-spin-on-an-old-tale/article6672798.ece

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