Cinderella, but not as you know it! The classic fairy tale has been given some innovative twists in this version devised by Sally Cookson, Adam Peck and the Original Company. Like many contemporary adaptations, this interpretation usurps old stereotypes in order to revolutionise our perception of the so called ‘natural order’, writes Carolyn Hart Taylor.
This ambitious production turns things upside down so that we see characters crossing gender lines, leaving Joel Black to be both a good pantomime brother and sister. Meanwhile, Ella, played by Molly Byrne, with definite opinions of her own, has dispensed with the glass slipper in favour of a spangled Dr Marten, reminding us that not every fairy tale heroine need be a dainty-footed waif, passively waiting for Prince Charming to rescue her.
In this topsy- turvy world, confusion reigns as the action becomes self-consciously over the top. Ella’s sisters, instructed on how to net themselves a prince, exaggeratedly practise etiquette, and with oversized bows pinned to their heads I felt that I had wandered into a carnival of the macabre. A feeling that was later confirmed when blood-curdling actions were performed on Aimee Louise Bevan, playing Ella’s sister. So, rather than whimsical, this tale has traces of the Brothers Grimm, with scheming, plotting and sinister goings on driving the plot and reminding us that where there is good, there is evil.
Alongside the deviation from stereotypical productions, was the bonus of puppetry, which also created a feeling of illusion. White paper birds being wafted around the stage were a charming addition to thinking outside the box whilst also providing a contrast to the darkness.
All encompassing as this offering was, the first half lacked conviction, with some lines sounding so hollow it felt as though something was amiss. However, whatever was lacking appeared to be ironed out in the interval, resulting in a far more polished second half. Suddenly the cast breathed life into their characters, dialogue sounded believable, actions resulted in reactions, and combined with audience participation it felt as though the spangled boot had worked its magic.
Do not expect a traditional tale, but be prepared to be surprised.
Cinderella: A Fairytale is on at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, SE4 2DH until 5th January. Time: 7.30pm. Admission: £16, £13 concs. Phone: 0333 666 3366
Photos: Tim Stubbs Hughes