On Tuesday evening, when I hit the YouTube button at 7pm to watch the premiere of Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker, coming from Hull Truck’s stage, I settled back, coffee in one hand, mince pie in the other, to watch live theatre – something I’d experienced little of since the dreaded coronavirus resulted in the closure of theatres nationwide.
The fun began after 10 minutes of festive faves played by DJ Ratty (cast member Joanna Holden), against a video backdrop of Christmas lights in and around the city of Hull..
Ratty introduced the Prince Charming of the title, with the words “he’s handsome, he’s rich and he’s a bachelor” – as the Prince (Laurie Jamieson) took to the stage, which was bedecked by a huge Christmas tree, presents and a “Groove Machine”.
A bag of nerves – this was his wedding night – he comically broke wind with every word he uttered.
Joining him on the stage were Cinderella’s stepsister, Susan (Louise Willoughby), dressed as a Christmas cracker after mistakenly thinking she was going to a fancy dress do, and
Susan’s mother, Cinders’ step-mum, Hilda (Rachel Dale), resplendent in an evening dress.
To bring us up to speed, Ratty (a survivor of the rodents used to pull Cinderella’s coach on the night of the Prince’s ball) regaled us of tales of the girl’s life up to then. We all know the story about the wicked step-mum and two ugly sisters making Cinderella’s life a misery.
The only difference in this version is that Hilda, desperate for the famous glass slipper to fit her daughter, chops off the girl’s toes to make it fit. Infection sets in, the girl pops her clogs, leaving only the one daughter, Susan – she of the cracker outfit.
The Prince was desperate to get married before midnight on Christmas Eve, as years previously, his family had had a curse placed on them which stated that if he didn’t get married before midnight on Christmas Eve, the day before his 30th birthday, he would remain childless and his kingdom would perish. Hence his secret wedding plans – known to everyone but the bride, Cinderella
Before she comes on the scene, the Prince explains to us that a huge glass ball filled with confetti was to explode over the happy couple after the ceremony. The release of the confetti was to be done by remote control and the lucky person chosen to press the button on his remote was none other than one Peter Levy.
Up pops the local TV presenter, Peter, on the screen and the Prince warns him not to press the button at the wrong time. Oh dear …
As the unsuspecting bride, Cinderella (Amelia Donkor) entered, I laughed out loud at the Prince’s bid to impress his future wife, as he “danced” along to Frankie Valli’s hit Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, which blared out from the Groove Machine.
His efforts were in vain and Cinderella refuses to go through with the wedding, leaving the cunning Hilda to trick the prince into marrying Ratty. In the dark and with the Prince minus his glasses, he and Ratty become husband and rat.
As Ratty stepped towards her husband, Peter Levy inadvertently pressed the confetti button, much to the Prince’s horror, who exiles the errant BBC man to Leeds.
When the dust settles – make that confetti – Cinderella explains that she does love the Prince, but that she’s not ready to get married just yet.
Happy and relieved, the Prince once again shows off his dancing “skills” to the strains of Boom Face’s Boom Shaka Laka.
And guess what happened next? It snowed! Ah.
And as the cast made their exit, reminders of Hull Truck Theatre’s past Christmas shows came up on our screens to the accompanying song, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, whose lyrics “Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow”, was just the positive message us theatre-goers wanted to hear.
As a reviewer, watching such a performance on You/tube et al makes the job easier. Miss a word? Press the rewind button. Need a drink? Press pause. But nothing, nothing, beats the thrill of actually being in a theatre for a live production.
But this small cast of five managed to bring fun and laughter to a miserable Tier 3 lockdown night, and I’m sure I’m not the only viewer whose Christmas spirit was revived. Thank you, Hull Truck Theatre.
Written and directed by Mark Babych, producer Adam Pownall, filmed by Ben Pugh with original music by John Biddle. The show is streamed on demand, for free, on YouTube, until Sunday, January 3rd 2021 (enter Hull Truck Christmas 2020) and on the Hull Truck Theatre website, www.hulltruck.co.uk/christmas-stream
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 22nd December 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★