by Shona Reppe and Ian Cameron.
Barbican Theatre (The Pit) Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 28 February 2011.
11am also 2pm 27 Feb.
Runs 50min No interval.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 February.
Tiny-sized Cinderella makes a strong impact.
North of a cultural divide that’s more effective than Hadrian’s Wall can ever have been, and which it takes a force like Black Watch to breach, Shona Reppe is the first name likely to come to mind among theatregoers when it comes to puppetry. Apart from her own shows, such as this Cinderella and Olga Volt, which follows it to the Barbican Pit next weekend (4-6 March), Reppe repeatedly crops up in credits as providing puppet input to Scottish shows.
It’s easy to see why from this work. Puppetry seems minimal. Cinders herself is a foot-high stick creature with a tiny yet expressive white face, her sisters are ‘played’ by a gaudy, clashing red and orange glove respectively, fancifully decorated and put on by Reppe with a showiness reflecting their characters. Testing the younger end of the 5+ age range (Olga is 7+) the sisters hack each other’s foot to try and fit the glass slipper. Out of sight but with very audible chop and drill sounds.
There are moments of behaviour recognisable for anyone used to tormenting siblings – like hanging Cinders’ invite to the ball out of reach (she’s already been seen trying to climb the furnishings concerned with realistic struggle). And the glove-sisters’ sudden polite stand to attention when father – a distant clomp of heavy tread – walks past, unawares.
It’s the precision with which the puppets are used that makes the show, and the idea of a realistic domestic setting, with what could be a curving section of kitchen, Cinders (and ultimately two shrunken-looking coloured gloves) dismissed to a drawer when not wanted.
And the puppeteer is a major presence, coming on as a maid and dusting audience members down, finding Cinders’ notes saying ‘Help’ and becoming the magic godmother who fills in for the ball we never see by some brief magic and a dance of illuminated costumes picked out of the dark.
There’s a smiling knowingness to Reppe’s onstage persona. It blocks off the story’s subconscious resonances. But they’ve been dealt with before and will be again. This, meanwhile, provides a stimulating originality in its expert presentation.
Performer: Shona Reppe.
Directors: Shona Reppe, Gill Robertson.
Sound: John Williamson.
Costume: Katie Hill.