The new adult panto, written by Jodie Prenger and Neil Hurst, has opened at London’s Turbine Theatre.

We’ll get this out of the way first – even though we’ve been living like this for a while now, the current theatrical experience still feels very strange. With temperature checks on arrival, hand sanitiser everywhere and mandatory mask wearing, it all feels very clinical – not the sort of venue people go to have a laugh with friends. Upon entering the auditorium it all looks even stranger – every other row of seats has been removed, and perspex screens have been erected around the remaining chairs to create small bubbles of seating. It’s hard to imagine having a good time in such an environment.

Thankfully, Cinderella: The Socially Distanced Ball delivers not merely a good time, but an outrageously fun night out. This 75-minute straight-through show is a reduced version of Cinderella, but it faithfully tells the story. Unsurprisingly there are numerous nods to the pandemic, but they’re cleverly observed. Whether noting that there are only half a dozen characters in the show to comply with Boris’ rule of six, or that the ball has to be over by 10pm due to the curfew, or choreographing an entire dance routine around an over-sized two-metre ruler to ensure adequate social distancing, the actors reel off line after line of topical humour which genuinely lands well.

Speaking of the actors, there are only two – Rufus Hound as Buttons and Daisy Wood-Davis as Cinderella – who are not in drag, and we love to see it. Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Scott Paige as ugly sisters Vajaja and Fanny make for a wickedly funny double act; after an underwhelming start in an introductory video, Debbie Kurup goes on to shine as The Prince; and Sean Parkins brings the house down as the sassy, shady Fairy Godmotherfucker. It really is a superb cast, as evidenced by the brilliantly-witty improvised lines when the props and staging go slightly awry.

The writing is where this show really comes into its own. Whether we’re watching the characters skipping through Soho saying hello to all the quirky characters, or seeing our drag queens deliver a fierce RuPaul homage, or any of the countless musical theatre references – the writing feels like it’s been lovingly crafted for the gay community. The intimacy of the space and the (limited, socially distanced) audience interaction lends this production a similar atmosphere to a queer cabaret performance and frankly we’ve no complaints about that at all.

We had a really great night out with Cinderella at the Turbine Theatre. Whether you’re looking for a new panto to check out, or you live for RuPaul gags, or you adore musical theatre or you simply want to poke some fun at the terrible year we’ve just had – there’s something here for you. We’re sure you’ll have a fabulous time at this ball.

GAY TIMES gives Cinderella: The Socially Distanced Ball – 4/5

More information can be found here.