Ingenious puppetry. Lighthearted fun for all ages.
As soon as we entered the Jacqueline du Pré building, we were greeted by Cinderella Green herself, who gave us a dusting with her orange duster and instructed us to take a piece of 'recycling' into the auditorium. We could tell immediately that this was to be no ordinary retelling of the classic fairytale.
In fact, it was a delightful, and sometimes irreverent, piece of family theatre that managed to entertain right through the ages, and at the same time gave us the heartfelt message ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ – an impressive achievement!
Hannah Rhodes as 'Fairy Loo, the Toilet-Brush-Fairy Godmother' opened the show by introducing the recycling theme and showed us what to do with our ‘rubbish’. The audience was divided into three teams, plastic, metal and paper people. We were encouraged to sing along and shake our rubbish at the appropriate times. This warmed the audience up nicely and set the tone for a friendly and accessible performance.
The play is aimed at 4+ years, and I wondered if my 3 year old would be able to follow the plot, but the combination of singing, dancing and characterful puppets held him captivated, even if he didn't quite follow the finer points of the narrative. Fairy Loo and Cinderella (played by Emma Boor) are a slick team, who effortlessly transform the stage from one scene to the next. Hannah handles her roles as Fairy Loo and ugly sisters puppeteer with real mastery.
The real highlight for me was the absolutely ingenious use of cleaning products to create the puppet characters. ‘Buttons’ can be best described as a brush-cum-dog, and the less orthodox characters of badger, fox and the lovebirds are likewise made out of goods from Fred’s hardware store. It’s amazing what you can do with a bottle of spray cleaner. It’s the ugly sisters who steal the show, however. Made out of J cloths, scrubbing pads and mop heads, the sisters are delightfully wicked and as mean as can be to poor Cinders.
Although the basic plot of the play will be familiar to most of the audience, there are some unusual additions and twists that make this play entertainingly bizarre in places. My favourite scene was the opening of the Prince’s garden party, where a set of singing cakes – including a pavlova and a chocolate éclair – take the spotlight, mesmerising children and adults alike.
This is the first time I've been to the JdP for something non-musical, and I was pleased to see it transformed into an intimate theatre space. The only downside is that as there is no tiered seating, viewing in the second and third rows may be slightly restricted. So I recommend that you arrive early to get the best front row seats, (tickets are unallocated) or accept that smaller members of the audience will be on your knee for the performance. I noticed back row audience members took to sitting on the stage for a good view.
Although this production may not have the budget and the high-tech special effects of the big Christmas shows, the intimate feel of the space and the sympathetic characters are utterly charming. A great choice for your family Christmas outing!
Dougal, age 3, said: “Those sisters are so rude! They wouldn't let her go to the party. I would let her go and I would put them in the BIN, because they are so mean.”
Morrigan, age 6, said: “I liked the bottle birds best.”