Sunday, December 18, 2011


The step sisters do Beyonce

Running about a week late on this post.


Last week the local expat theater group, The Phnom Penh Players, did their annual Christmas pantomime – that peculiar form of traditional British family entertainment that includes risqué wordplay, slapstick, political in-jokes, rampant cross-dressing and, ideally, raucous audience participation. This year’s outing was entitled ‘Cinderella’s Hard Day’s Night,’ and like last year’s ‘Robin in da Hood’ it was a general success.

Written by local expats Claire Barker and Zac Kandall, Cinderella’s Hard Day’s Night tells the story of a provincial girl from an ill-fated family – her widower father dies suddenly (of 'a broken heart' according to local officials,) then their mango trees mysteriously burn down and a development company rubber plantation pops up in its place. Her inheritance lost, she moves to the city where she ends up doing factory work and acting as a servant to her self-centered, bearded stepsisters played by Mark Twine and Dom Sharpe. Interspersed with adapted Beatles songs, the story winds its way rather unpredictably through the Cinderella tale, from her abuse by her adopted family (and their threats to traffic her to Bangkok,) to the 'connected' fairy godparents, the royal ball, the insecure (and busty) Prince Charming, the climactic cake baking contest judged Chef Ramsay (whose every other word is a censorial "beep") and ultimately to a ‘happily ever after’ ending and a grand romantic kiss between the Prince and Cinderella (both played by women.)

The writing was sharp and knowing, the songs fun, the actors all in good form and the play as a whole a bit rough around the edges, just as a local performance should be. I feel I must make special note of the play's bitingly timely local in-jokes, and of Tim Johnson as Buttons, Cinderella’s love struck sidekick, whose merry muggings made many a moment. Great stuff Tim. Consider quitting your day job.

Last but certainly not least, the over-the-top rendition of Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ by Cinderella’s cross-dressing step-sisters was uproariously funny, the highlight of the show. I've never really seen the humor in drag, but this sketch had me belly laughing. I hope somebody caught it on video. It was a keeper.

It was all great fun. A touch of home in the Christmas season, even if I’m not British. The audience, made up mostly of expats, many families and children, obviously enjoyed themselves. Having no idea what it will be or even if there will be one, I highly recommend next year’s show for the whole family.

At the Russian Cultural Center. The crowds await.


Hamlet introduces the traditions and rules of Pantomime

"Lakeside this, lakeside that. If I knew it was going to be such a big to-do I would have done things differently. Yes, I definitely would have shut down the newspapers..."

Fairy Godmother, Buttons and Cinderella

Fairy Godfather (and writer, Zac Kandall)

Domino and Buttons

'All you need is love...'

Finale, 'All You Need is Love'

The cast


EAS: Panto Time: Cinderella’s Hard Day's Night

Phnom Penh Post: New panto combines Beatles and fairytales

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