‘You can always rely on Hackney Empire, Stratford East and the Lyric Hammersmith to subvert the traditional Christmas pantomime.  This year, the Lyric has gone for Woke.

What do ‘the Cosmos’ and an age-old fairy tale of love overcoming class barriers have in common? A lot in the matriarchal Queendom of Hammersmith. Celestially-obsessed Cinderella (Timmika Ramsay) has ambitions of astronomical proportions, and a stellar voice to go with them. She’s enslaved to a revolting, faux fur animal print-wearing Stepmother – Shobna Gulati having a whale of a time – who is only out evil-ed by her Instagram-obsessed daughters.

It’s a wannabe progressive and female-forward show shaming social media dependence and influencer culture which turns the evil stepsisters into self-obsessed egomaniacs.  There’s a worthy scene where guests’ outfits at the palace ball are red-carpet criticized and ‘liked’ (or not) under a fashion camera screening system. It’s a good idea, but you’d need a better script and less two-dimensional acting to make the larger statement.

The cross dressing Fairy Godmother (Rhys Taylor) has a string of ball gags. Sorry, that would be fun, I mean ball jokes, but his seem excessively tame.

On stage chemistry between characters is strong:  Cinderella’s ‘best pal’ Buttons confounds panto tradition with an unexpected romance, but even in a sparkier second act, the humour isn’t sharp enough. Nor is the music – there’s a floppy mock-rap number whose message is lost in a lack of articulation, and changing the lyrics of ‘New York, New York’ to ‘New Look, New Look’ isn’t a satirising burn on the retail fashion industry.

Directed by Tinuke Craig, this universal tale walks an uneasy line between tradition and modernity – but there are surprise twists in the plot and enough glitter to keep most kids attentive.

Guest reviewer: Sophia Shluger