Updated: May 26, 2021
Sally Cookson, Adam Peck & original Tobacco Factory cast
The Dukes, Lancaster
November 22-January 11, 2020; 2hr
You can mess around with the Ugly Sisters’ gender; drop all that Dandini or Fairy Godmother nonsense; put Cinders in a pair of Doc Martens AND still have a Ball in this clever, compact and thoroughly-comic version of the traditional tale.
It may borrow aspects of pantomime, but it’s more rooted in the fairytale telling of the Brothers Grimm, while its key characters could have stepped off the pages of Roald Dahl. Once youngsters have understood that, they are in for a treat.
Writers Sally Cookson and Adam Peck have skilfully blended the ancient and modern in a version that has already attracted awards elsewhere (even an Olivier nomination) and has been given further enhancement here. It’s all performed by a whirlwind cast of five, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way down this venue’s corridors as they change costume, character and stage entrances at breakneck speed.
Helen Longworth and Craig Anderson transition into Ugly Siblings, rather than sisters – and why not nowadays? Her gurning and his physical comedy are sheer joy. Michael Hugo returns here, and has already proved, at the Dukes and elsewhere, to have impeccable credentials as an actor who can switch between dark and light in a heartbeat. Just watch his on-stage transformation from Cinders’ father to her Wicked Stepmother...
Rianna Duce’s Cinderella is a feisty free spirit who can easily woo her Prince – never mind everyone else in the house – while Waleed Hammad is a royal mummy’s boy more interested in bird watching. And it’s a flock of those that takes the place of Fairy Godmother to effect the show’s transformation scenes. Just part of the effective puppetry also used to convey Cinderella’s care-free early years.
Revealing how several sound effects are created is another of the theatrical details with which this show abounds.
Hammad’s working of the audience in the second act, especially when he appears to try Cinders’ missing footwear around everyone in the region, adds even more fun to a production that never lets up yet still manages to deliver in under two hours.
Every credit to director Sarah Punshon, designer Katie Scott and anyone else involved with the costumes, and choreographer Zak Phillips-Yates, who manages the equivalent of close-up magic with the show’s movement.