GIVEN it receives huge subsidies, Northern Stage has a welcome mandate by the Arts Council and the rate payers of Newcastle to deliver an alternative to the more populist shows in the city at Yuletide.
Having hit the heights some years ago with the brilliant A Christmas Carol, its offerings of late have provided a less genuine alternative.
Sadly, The Glass Slipper, a different take on Cinderella, is by far their weakest Christmas show of the past six years.
Isabella (Ann Marcuson) dies after giving birth to Ella (Laura Riseborough) who becomes a music teacher. Her comfortable existence, however, is destroyed after her glassmaker father brings home his new wife and her two spoilt older teenage daughters, who force Ella to become their skivvy.
Following the traditional tale, Ella goes to the ball, loses her glass slipper and marries her Prince Charming.
As you’d expect form Northern Stage, the set of a huge staircase was fantastic, the hand-stitched costumes were delightful and a large hot air balloon was stunning.
Ella’s mum appearing as her guardian angel was a nice touch. Imagine, then, a beautifully wrapped gift box that, when opened, contained no present. This production has a similar feel.
The script was, to be polite, bland. It lacked the basics. There was no tension, enchantment or excitement and very little wit – an attempt at audience participation with a tongue twister fell flat – while none of the characters were involving enough to care about.
There were occasional references to “New-carsle” and a few local names mentioned, but overall this felt like a dour middle class London production grafted on to Newcastle. It was soulless.
While thousands of excited children flock to full houses at the Theatre Royal and Tyne Theatre pantomimes, the Northern Stage audience was barely 120, the vast majority of whom were adults.
The proof of the pudding ...