From Bill Clinton’s encounter with Monica Lewinsky, to Keith Vaz’s most recently revealed escapade with two paid men, nothing grabs the public’s interest quite like a scandal involving adultery and politicians. There’s something saucy about knowing that these people, who hold esteemed positions in public office, would risk their reputation for a private rendezvous.
Such a scandal works its way into the plot of the Stiles and Drewe’s musical, Soho Cinders which opened at the Charing Cross theatre this week. It’s a show about political spin, drama galore and the collateral damage that loving the one that you ought not to can have.
In a modern retelling of a well-known fairy-tale, we find ourselves in the heart of London’s West End on Old Compton Street, where the prostitutes rub shoulders with the theatre dwellers at night. Robbie (Luke Bayer) is our Cinderella of today; he’s caught the eye of two men and finds himself torn between both.
The first suitor is James Prince (Lewis Asquith), a swimmer turned mayoral candidate for London. Prince seeks to run on a campaign of honesty yet hides his affair with Robbie away from his fiancé Marilyn Platt (Tori Hargreaves). Robbie’s second gentleman caller is the wealthy Lord Bellingham. After meeting through a curious online dating site, Bellingham takes pleasure in paying generously for Robbie’s company.
Meanwhile, Robbie runs a laundrette alongside his best mate Velcro (Millie O’Connell), but his ugly step sisters (Natalie Harman and Michaela Stern) threaten to take the laundrette away. Things take an interesting turn when Lord Bellingham invites Robbie to the ball, sorry no, a political fundraiser.
The centrepiece of the musical is its score. The songs do most of the heavy-lifting to set the scene and give us an insight into the various thoughts of the characters. But whether they all serve to move the story along is debatable. In comedic numbers such as ‘I’m So Over Men’ and ‘Fifteen Minutes’, the ugly step sisters succeed in playing TOWIE-esque caricatures for laughs. ‘You Shall Go to the Ball’ is a standout number in the show for the drama that it builds during the song and the impressive choreography.
Despite all-round good performances and a unique story, some of the magic that you’d expect in a modern fairy-tale appeared to be missing and its hard to place a finger on why. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t quite envelope you in its story in the way that you’d expect. The two hour 30 minute running time and the ominously dark lighting may not have helped things either.
But what makes the show unique is that rather than rooting for a heterosexual couple as you usually do, here we are presented with a complicated picture of love and relationships in the modern day. Although Robbie is able to be with the one his heart longs for in the end, it’s also plain to see that not everyone is treated to a neat happy ending. We’ve had countless adaptations of Cinderella and other fairytales. Soho Cinders is not the first and most likely won’t be the last, but it’s enjoyable enough and has something different to say.
Soho Cinders is running at the Charing Cross Theatre until at the time of writing.
Photo Credit: Photo: Pamela Raith