CINDERELLA: A FAIRYTALE
based on Grimms’ Fairy Tale.
St James Theatre 12 Palace Road SW1E 5JA To 26 January 2013.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 264 2140.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 December.
Cinderella has a Ball – as do the audience with this mix of the serious and anarchic.
“It’s not that sort of show,” the Prince exhorts those audience members beginning some pantomime call-outs. Maybe not, but after the royal youth has invaded the audience trying to find a dancing-partner and some marriage guidance, people could be forgiven for thinking it was.
That’s in act two. The first act definitely isn’t the ‘P’-word sort of show at all. It opens with a benevolent nature, a tree and birds which will protect Cinderella and help her to the Prince’s big night in She meets him as a birdwatcher, and her ability to imitate birds’ songs leads, once a culture gap between Latin and vernacular names has been resolved, to the kind of personal sympathy that can develop into happiness ever after.
This production was seen at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory a year ago. It comes from Travelling Light, whose director Sally Cookson is one of this country’s most sympathetic creators of theatre for young audiences, knowing how depth and entertainment, involvement and fun, best combine for different ages. Work of this quality for young audiences doesn’t grow on trees; like a tree, it matures over the years.
So, the flapping-wings of shaped and folded paper is a common enough ‘bird effect’. But here it’s developed through the bird-like spectacles and costumes of ensemble members, the two musicians included, contrasting the trashy brightness of the step-family’s ball-gowns. Birds sustain the sympathetic Cinderella and finally turn on her chief tormentor with an avian fury of Hitchcockian intensity.
Lisa Kerr’s Cinders is positive, resilient and resourceful, tricking the Step Mother who replaces the girl’s father visibly as Craig Edwards changes costume and manner. His calmly cruel, reasonably irrational Step Mother is convincing in her domestic bullying. It arouses some hisses, but at this stage that’s wrong – hisses shoo evil away; here it must seem relentlessly oppressive.
Antics at the Ball allow for seasonal fun, including a chase around the auditorium, without losing the plot or sense of character, and there’s a change to grotesque cruelty as the Mother mutilates her two children (one of them a son who rather takes to Cinders) in seeking a royal marriage. The various tonal registers are carefully balanced, and inventively reflected in Benji Bower’s score, to make a fresh, memorable Cinderella.
Ella: Lisa Kerr.
Prince: Thomas Eccleshare.
Step Mother: Craig Edwards.
Step Sister: Lucy Tuck.
Step Brother: Tom Godwin.
Musicians: Brian Hargreaves, Adam Pleeth.
Director: Sally Cookson.
Designer: Katie Sykes.
Lighting: Matthew Graham.
Sound: Charlie Knight.
Composer/Music Director: Benji Bower.
Choreographer: Joêl Daniel.
Puppetry: Chris Pirie.
Dramaturg: Adam Peck.