By Annie Siddons
It is claimed there have been thousands of variants of the folk tale of Cinderella or The Glass Slipper throughout the world. So why do we need another one?
Derby Theatre must have thought a new way of telling the world’s oldest-recorded story was necessary even though the venue approached Mike Kenny to come up with a different version only eight years ago. He had rats telling the story, befriending a young girl in her kitchen and accompanying her to a ball where she met a prince.
In this new, non-panto version Annie Siddons who has had a couple of works performed at Derby Theatre immerses herself in Derbyshire customs and dialect. So instead of the heroine falling for a prince in a castle, she meets the son and heir of a lord who lives in a stately home which resembles Kedleston Hall.
The term “ayup m’duck” gets a few airings, as does “daft ha’porth” and “you daft puddings” – two phrases I haven’t heard for a long time.Siddons’ version has Cinderella – real name Gabriella – grieving for her dead mother. Her father has married again, getting hitched to a spendthrift who never does any work, while Cinderella’s two stepsisters are just as profligate with money and lazy.
Cinderella’s father is in financial difficulties, so he goes away to work on a new railway owned by Sir Thaddeus Maddox. His son meets Cinderella when she is walking in the Derbyshire hills and their romance is assured.
Cinderella is an ensemble piece with a cast of eight actor-musicians supplemented by a young company of six.
It is astonishing to know that two of the cast are making their professional debuts. Áine O’Neill-Mason is ideal for this version of Cinderella, a down-to-earth young woman who gets on with life without complaining about the ill-treatment she suffers and having only her cat as a friend. She skilfully presents the character as likeable but without any sentimentality that can go with the role.
Charlotte Rutherfoord is the other newcomer who is striking as Ottilie, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, a pink-haired, eccentric goth who has a fascination with ravens.
Roxanne Bartle gives an eye-catching performance as Lavinia, deliciously over the top as the selfish, self-obsessed stepsister who is full of her own importance.
All the cast perform with enthusiasm and panache, none more so than Shelley Atkinson, commendable as both Cinderella’s dippy stepmother Adelaide and the mysterious Moritasgus, the goddess of wisdom and healing who ensures that the heroine goes to the ball.
Bryn Holding directs with flair while Kevin Jenkins has produced a clever set which allows the action to move effortlessly from the outdoors to Cinderella’s cottage and Maddox Hall.
SuRie who represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018 has composed a series of complex songs for the production. They are not the sort that you will be humming on the way home and they may not be to everyone’s taste. But they emphasise the message that this is a quality, family show for all ages that is as far from being a panto as you could imagine.
Cinderella also proves that you do not need a fairy godmother for a show to be deemed “magical”.
* This review originally appeared on the British Theatre Guide website