Macbeth – Greenwich Theatre

The production that is based on the line "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well / It were done quickly"?

Shakespeare's shortest tragedy is cut still further in this adaptation: a cast of six (five men and one woman) take on (nearly) all the roles. As they don't change costume, this is sometimes a case of speed over clarity, as when the King becomes one of the witches simply by not leaving the stage between scenes. For no very obvious reason, the set of actors playing the witches even changes between their first and second appearance.

You probably do need to be familiar with the play to work out who someone is supposed to be at any point – when the actor who played Banquo a minute ago is present as one of the other nobles at the dinner attended by Banquo's ghost, for example – and it also suffers in comparison with the Shakespeare's Globe production last year. Anyone who saw that won't have forgotten the Porter opening the gate.. he's one of the things that's gone here, his performance taken away in a different way.

But it moves along quickly and if not always too well, then effectively enough. The lighting and sound design works well with the simple set (sheets supported by wooden beams, with three slits for entrances and exits), plus the violence is shown effectively without needing to resort to splatter effects.

The audience I saw it with included two school parties. One section laughed at some inappropriate moments, but the applause at the end was thunderous.

3.5/5

Drive Ride Walk – Greenwich Theatre

A 'world premiere', but it doesn't feel quite finished yet. The piece has its origin in two songs at one of the Bridewell's experimental slots. It's been expanded into a 55 minute piece here, but there's scope for more.

The theme is journeys in London. One person has just passed their driving test, another cycles, and a third commutes by tube, walks, and also falls over. Around that, the main cast of nine sing a variety of songs, usually a cappella, sometimes backed by a young (college?) choir, or a double bass and… erm, I can't remember what the other instrument is.

I also can't remember any of the tunes: this is Sondheim-light, with an ensemble doing lyric-based stuff. What's missing is a book substantially longer than the sentence above. There's a bit more, but not enough.

But while it's happening, it's good stuff, particularly the 'Don't you cut me up' song from the young drivers. I was fearing they'd end up hitting the cyclist (how to put people off cycling) but it doesn't happen and she sings happily about some of the joys of cycling in London.

Overall, I'm glad I've seen it, but I was also glad I got the ticket for half price on lastminute.com.

After the week at Greenwich Theatre, it goes on a short London tour.

3/5

Cinderella – Greenwich Theatre

There are people who rave about the Hackney Empire pantos, and endless 'with the star of (fill in TV programme)' ones exist, but for the past few years my favourites have been the ones at the Greenwich Theatre, with the final performance of the run a particular highlight. (You've missed it, in other words.)

Written as ever by the regular dame, Andrew Pollard, the script is very much 'of Greenwich, for Greenwich' rather than an off-the peg one, and the theatre itself is just the right size. I've sat in the balcony at Hackney and you might as well be watching on TV – you're far away from the action and the cast ignore you. Not here. The combination is a real community event: users and staff of the area's toy libraries were out in force in the front rows.

Pollard is as delightful as ever (I particularly liked the opening Lady Gaga-inspired PVC costume) and this one featured another Greenwich panto regular, Paul Critoph, more usually in the 'Baron' or father role, as the other ugly sister. With – in this telling – the step-mother dead, it's just them being cruel to Ella (Hannah Wilding, cast both for her beauty and talented singing) while her father bemoans losing his Housing Benefit and Buttons is in unrequited love with her. Meanwhile, Greenwich Park sees Prince Charlemagne from Bohemia trying to match his with-it companion's urban cool. And failing. But swapping clothes allows him to actually talk to Ella, out collecting firewood. When his servant returns, she wanders off (giving away her firewood to someone in need – say, who was that hooded woman?) and so he needs a way to find her again. What about holding a ball, no servants allowed… ?

The best Cinderella I can remember was the part-improvised, part-staggeringly good puppetry one by Improbable at the Lyric Hammersmith a few years ago. This wasn't quite as good, but I cannot imagine there were many better pantos this year. The cast clearly had as much fun as the audience, both feeding off each other, making a real advert for the appeal of live theatre. Let's hope the younger members of the audience get the bug: they were certainly getting involved.

3/5