Cinderella: A Fairytale

Sally Cookson, Adam Peck and original company
Northern Stage
Northern Stage

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Cinderella: A Fairytale Credit: Pamela Raith photography
Cinderella: A Fairytale Credit: Pamela Raith Photography
Cinderella: A Fairytale Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Christmas is coming and Cinderella: A Fairytale has just opened; it’s a hit for all the family!

Directors Jake Smith and Katy Weir start out to make something that takes the Grimm Brothers' version as starting point, aiming to make the show full of music, dance and comedy, and they have succeeded—Cinderella: A Fairytale has broad appeal and is wacky and fun.

As you enter the auditorium, you are meet by the seemingly vast stage with a fun set of a house in a wood; the audience are seated on both sides. Very soon, the actors appear looking quite birdlike and generally making themselves a nuisance in and among the audience, and then we’re off!

The story of Cinderella is familiar: Ella loses first her mother, then her father and is left in the ‘care’ of her greedy, money-grubbing stepmother, played hysterically well by Zoe Lambert and two siblings, the sister played by Peace Oseyenum and the brother by David Fallon. Both are excellent—it’s a relief to have a brother and sister replace the usual two sisters and they play off each other really well. Cinderella, here played by the charming, charismatic and energetic Evelyne Oyedkun, is tremendous, bright and clever and not averse to tricking her siblings.

So things proceed along the lines of the more traditional retelling, but with lots of refreshing differences. The Prince, well played by Charlie Venables, is a bird watcher, a bit of a nerd in fact, called 'Pumpkin' by his ginger-wigged mother, zanily played by the ever-versatile Katie Trantor. The deceptively small cast move the action along rapidly, often switching back and forwards as birds and other characters with Aron de Casmaker particularly adept as Woodpecker / Footman / Flamingo.

Act two opens with the ball and a frolicking dance around the banquet table. Ella’s brother has been persuaded into a dress by his mother and his sister is doing her ‘best’ to charm the Prince. Ella does of course get to the ball and Ella and Prince fall in love, she does lose her silver boot(!) and the Prince does seek out the owner across the land.

Spolier alert, there’s some nasty business with the sister’s foot! All ends as it should with love triumphant.

The production is incredibly successful; all the elements are well balanced with a script that is smart, never patronising and avoids gender stereotypes. The programme is full of games and excellent images from rehearsals, which demonstrate how much fun the cast have. Costumes are wacky and contemporary in feel, the inventive set has different levels and hiding places but isn’t overpowering—both are by Alison Ashton.

Lighting by John Rainsforth combines really spectacular moments that bring applause with relative simplicity, and composer Ziad Jabero of Baghdaddies has created masses of great music, full of variety, with most of it live. Filled with references and different rhythms, it is accompanied by Shannelle ‘Taili’ Fergus’s perfectly pitched choreography and movement, which everyone looks great dancing, particularly Ella and her siblings. Everyone in the cast has a great time, drawing in the audience and involving us in smart and funny gags and scenes.

The audience, old and young, had a ball; after the show, the Baghdaddies play on in the foyer, though sound levels were a bit too high.

There’s a welcoming atmosphere at Northern Stage and a sparkly, entertaining Christmas show—a must-see for all the family and their friends.

Reviewer: Dora Frankel

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