‘Cinderella: A Fairy Tale’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by March 24, 2017

‘Cinderella: A Fairy Tale’ FOR ADULTS was crafted by two English writers, Sally Cookson and Adam Peck just over 6 years ago. It has recently been included in the 50 best plays for youngsters. The play was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Sally Cookson is an associate artist and stage director at the Bristol Old Vic, and the ‘Travelling Light Theatre’. Adam Peck, who has several degrees in theatre and English, has also worked with the Bristol Old Vic Young Company as a performer, writer, and playwriting tutor since 2006. He co-founded the ‘Fairground Theatre Group’ in 2007.

The version of ‘Cinderella’ that most people would think of, is the funny, warm-hearted pantomime based on the French 1697 version of the story by Perrault. However, in those days, most fairy tales were actually aimed at adults in an attempt to present and promote moral standards, and this the genre used here.

This 90-minute production can be seen each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening at 8.00 pm until 8th April.

The performances are presented by the Garrick Theatre Company, at the historic Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street in Guildford. There are matinées at 2.00 pm on Sunday 26th March and the 2nd April.

 

It is an open stage with no wings. In traditional style, Rob Whitehead’s design has the sidewalls and the rear cyclorama made of cream hessian. There are three substantial (good solid carpentry by Rob, Rodney and Owen Davis) symbolic trees, one of which allows an actor to sit amongst the branches. The style of the set is once again, true to how it would have been 300 years ago. Stage managed by Cassidy Bodenham.

Mark Owen and Geoff Holt’s very good technical work heighten the atmosphere.

 

       Ella’s mother dies in childbirth, and so her heartbroken father (Rodney van Groningen) brings up Ella (Jade Gurney). From even weeks old, she spends most of the day wandering the woods with her dad. The father teaches Ella the names of all of the birds and their woodland calls.

       Knowing that he is extremely ill, and in an attempt to get security for his daughter, the father remarries. However, he soon realises the error of his ways. The new wife (Rodney van Groningen) is a miserable and stern woman, with two arrogant children who bully poor Ella. The stepbrother (Josh Flaherty) tries to be friendly, but his spiteful and bossy sister (Rhiannon Cary) forces him to abuse Ella, who has now become a domestic slave.

     One day in the woods, Ella meets a birdwatcher. He is a shy and nervous fellow (Guy Jackson), but they both become good friends.

     Who is this stranger? Will Ella ever be happy?

 

Director Robert Whitehead has boldly taken an offbeat play to present. He has also given two, raw recruits – under the reassuring eye of Rodney van Groningen – a chance to shine in his small cast, and they have blossomed. Jade and Guy have had several stage appearances and were most supportive of Rhiannon and Josh.

Guy played the nerdy Prince, and whilst in pantomime mode, searched the audience for his lost love. Rhiannon was delightful as the poor slave, really pulling the heartstrings.

The cast worked very well together, although their singing was a little apprehensive and weak.

Kevin MacLeod generously gave the charming musical backing; it was soft and sensitive, employing mainly flute and clarinet, but did I really spot a steel band drum? Perfect backing.

Susan Vincent, Narelle Borbely and Jackie Campbell made the authentic, rustic costumes.

This production is cleverly directed, and competently acted – in the original, harsh purist style of the 17th century. The director and cast have given us a quality rendition of a pantomime / fairy tale of old.

My biggest worry is at what age group is the show aimed? There are two gruesome scenes that made me wince and so I would recommend the play to over 14 year olds. Certainly worth seeing, but do not expect fluffy warmth.