“I have chosen the Grimm version (of Cinderella) as our starting point because it is less syrupy and sentimental than the Perrault version … It feels more like a folk tale that has come from the oral tradition, earthy and simple. Neither does it shy away from the darker elements of the story which are intriguing.”
- Sally Cookson, Director of Travelling Light Theatre Company’s Cinderella: A Fairytale
This description of Cinderella at the Tobacco Factory Theatre is spot on. With the exception of the brash pink party dresses worn comically by three men and a woman at the ball, the costumes are mostly of neutral colour, while nature features heavily throughout the performance in the form of five birds, played by every member of the cast, who use skilful puppetry. “How did they change clothes so quickly?” asked my five year old. “I wish I could do that!”
And those darker elements are present from early on in the show, when I saddled up to my daughter, fearful that she might be a little frightened. Every now and then I put my arm around her for comfort, maybe my own, as she seemed hooked on every detail and not perturbed by the wickedness prevalent in Ella’s father’s widow.
“I think that, at the beginning, when Cinderella was a baby, her Daddy didn’t know that the Step Mother was so naughty. I liked it when the Step Mother went away,” she told me. Craig Edwards has an extraordinarily angular face, akin to a stereotypical witch, and he is convincingly menacing.
The Step Sister, played by Lucy Tuck, is a product of this wicked upbringing, jealous and self-seeking but maybe not beyond repair. Her brother (Saikat Ahamed), lets his softer nature slip, despite the overpowering presence of these two women. The step-sibling pairing is a winner: she is gawky and searching for maternal approval, he is elegant and comical, not at all happy to be used as a female proxy.
Cinderella (Lisa Kerr) and the Prince (Thomas Eccleshare) are made for each other. Her at-oneness with the ornithological creatures of the forest couldn’t fail to impress the bird-watching, geeky Prince. She impressed the audience too and the chatter with those birds of many species was greeted with laughter and wonderment. My little companion imitated the squaws and the twitter at every opportunity.
“My favourite bit was when Cinderella and the Prince danced.” Ah, a romantic at heart? The ball scenes are lit with skill (lighting by Matthew Graham) and the show would only be a story without the accompanying music, performed live by Will Bower. The Prince, not realising that he is in love, just can’t help bursting into song and we loved him for it.
We found ourselves positioned at the back at one of the four blocks of seats and, as the stage was bang in the middle of the theatre, we had a perfect view, everyone did.
Travelling Light’s take on Cinderella is a true treat. We had a ball!
Could I just ask our spirited, sweet heroine, “Where did you get those fabulous shoes?!”
Cinderella is playing at the Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol, until 15th January.
For more information on Travelling Light Theatre Company, click here.