Cinderella: A Fairytale

Thu 8th December 2011 – Mon 16th January 2012

reviews

Katie Sands

at 00:35 on 16th Dec 2011

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The Travelling Light Theatre Company’s spin on Cinderella is truly unique. I was impressed as soon as I saw the live band, aptly titled The Funky Pigeons (Benji Bower and Will Bower), equipped with cellos, guitars and a whole host of quirky sound effects. The set was simple yet fitting, with the audience sat around all sides of the stage.

The audience sat bursting with excitement, ready to be filled with wholehearted festive cheer. Ella (Lisa Kerr) first appears as a ragdoll, who is endearingly introduced with the help of a variety of dancing birds. Ella soon grows and the lively girl is brought to life, soon introduced to her stepsister (Lucy Tuck) and stepbrother (Saikat Ahamed). Her initial impressions of them were not overly positive! Ella is soon set to work by her ghastly stepmother (Craig Edwards). The wicked trio chant at Ella to ‘dust the ledges’ and ‘clean the glass’: ‘you’ll sleep with the Cinders…Ella’. The prim and proper siblings are soon caught by the flash of excitement in Ella’s eyes, when she announces that gold has been buried under the floorboards which she had been banished to polishing. The stepbrother and sister join Ella in her hard work – never before has scrubbing a wooden floor been made to look so much fun!

The spritely birds soon return to the stage, with fairly spectacular outfits: beige knitted waistcoats, wintry bobbled hats, French professor glasses and brown laced boots did the trick in captivating the audience to the birds’ delightfully charming ways. The birdwatcher (Thomas Eccleshare) is amazed at Ella’s ability to perfectly call the middle-spotted woodpecker and red-breasted nuthatch towards her, without even moving her lips. He is so flabbergasted that the birdwatcher has to reach for his puffer, as an asthma attack is briefly induced! As a sign of how impressed he is the birdwatcher cordially invites Ella to the infamous ball.

Ella’s stepmother snatches the ticket, assuming it is stolen property, then forcefully instructs Ella to stitch a never-ending pile of socks before even considering whether she is able to attend the ball. Yet, with the help of her flying companions, Ella is able to rapidly complete her duties. The day of the ball soon arrives, and the two siblings are given some wise words of advice from their delightful mother as to how to seduce the Prince. The stepsister was clearly born with a flirtatious flare: ‘do you like dancing? How much money have you got? Do you want to kiss me?’ and ‘Is it me your Majesty or is it hot in here?!’ There’s no holding her back! Sadly, the stepsister isn’t able to ‘glide, glide and pose’ quite so gracefully and swanlike as her brother, and is accused of appearing too much like an albatross. Yet, it wasn’t just the siblings preparing their seductive ways! The Queen was also found to give some final pre-ball words of wisdom to her young Prince: ‘all you have to do is find a wife…just be yourself…flattery will get you everywhere – good luck pumpkin!’

Hysterical laughter circled throughout the audience when the Prince decided he would practice his flirting with some unsuspecting members of the crowd. They were in full appreciation of their front row seats! The most entertaining participating audience member was married-for-17-years Scout Leader Roger. The Prince was inquisitive, wanting to understand the secrets behind a successful relationship, yet he shouldn’t have ventured further than the stepmother herself, as she was a self-proclaimed expert in the art of love.

The ball soiree progresses, and the audience are reminded of the traditional aspects of the Cinderella story – ‘some mystery girl has taken the heart of the Prince’. The Prince, believe it or not, becomes desperate to find the owner of the glittery silver boot, and promises to marry her (if she’ll have him, of course). And where better for the Prince to begin the search than the Bristolian suburb of Horfield: ‘Ladies of Horfield, get your left feet ready’ the Prince exclaims. The Prince dashes around the audience in the desperate hope of finding a suitable foot for the show, but to no avail. There was certainly momentary worry that this would be the fairy tale without a happy ending. After some fairly gruesome toe chopping due to the stepmother’s confidence that the Prince would be fooled into taking her daughter as his beloved, Cinderella charms the Prince by performing her unique bird calling to allow him to come to her rescue, from a shabby white suitcase. The Prince’s puffer makes a momentary reappearance to show his happiness and enchantment in finding Cinderella, and the happy couple have their first kiss before dancing off of the stage.

This contemporary adaptation of Cinderella captured the minds of both adults and children alike, and the plot had been incredibly well written to intertwine the story’s traditional elements with modern twists of fairy tale delight. A perfect family outing to celebrate the coming of Christmas; I would whole heartedly recommend this play to anyone seeking some light hearted and humorous entertainment.

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Natasha Tabani

at 04:52 on 16th Dec 2011

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'Cinderella: A Fairytale' sets out to provide a family entertainment experience that is quite different from your regular pantomime. It draws on the more folky Brother’s Grimm tradition, which director Sally Cookson describes as ‘less syrupy and sentimental’ than Charles Perrault’s version (the one used by Walt Disney). The play certainly has a more minimalist feel than you would expect from a performance of Cinderella at Christmas-time. This, however, is not a bad thing. In fact it is quite refreshing. The pantomime genre is known for its gaudiness, flamboyance and predictability. In contrast to this, 'Cinderella: A Fairytale' provides the audience with an interesting take on a familiar narrative, which both reverts back to the original Grimm folklore and adds its own quirky traits into the storytelling mix.

The setting is particularly wintery; white woodland, rough-cut trees and textured floorboards, with blue lanterns suspended over the audience. A few items of clothing – a stripy dress, a tattered pinafore – are hung from the trees in anticipation of the roles they will later play. Suddenly, kooky music begins and the stage fills with ‘birds’ (actors swooping around with thick glasses, bird-faces and little pairs of wings). Birds continue to form the main motif throughout the play, both physically and metaphorically. To enhance the fairytale element, the birds also sing fragments of well-known nursery rhymes throughout.

The actors all fit their roles perfectly. Cinderella (Lisa Kerr) – whose name is contracted to a modernized ‘Ella’ – is charming, earthy and fey. The Prince (Thomas Eccleshire) is awkward but enthusiastic and handsome. The evil step-mother (Craig Edwards) is both tyrannous and ridiculous, and her children (Lucy Tuck and Saihat Ahmed) are silly and cruel. They interact well, and each character has a funny persona with a more serious undercurrent. The music should also be given a special mention – it knits the scenes together perfectly, usually with a slow-jazz type vibe.

There are few drawbacks, if any. I felt that the singing, which is an integral part of this kind of performance, could have been a little stronger at times, especially the solo performances. The stage was also always glaringly bright, and though the lanterns in the audience changed colour depending on the setting, I felt that they could have, for instance, dimmed the lights to reflect the interior of Cinderella’s house in contrast to the forest outside. But these are minor technicalities, and the overall things that mattered – the acting, the music, the set, the comedy – more than made up for them.

There are still pantomimic elements to the play, such as the unanimous hiss which emanates from the crowd every time the wicked stepmother performs a despicable deed. There is also cross-dressing and audience interaction. However, the play offers much more than a conventional pantomime, with it’s quirky attention to detail, beautiful score and funny but not too over-the top performances. There are also some unexpectedly dark and gruesome scenes, which stay true to the Grimm original. I found it to be genuinely comical, dynamic and quirky, and definitely well worth a watch.

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