A Northern Stage Production
Cinderella - A Fairytale
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Saturday 6 January 2024
By Sally Cookson, Adam Peck, and the Original Company
Directed by Katy Weir and Jake Smith
A classic Northern Stage Christmas show that is happy to tell a familiar tale with their unique panache. This is no pantomime. This is a very special family friendly drama that is a brilliant introduction to theatre for the youngsters in the audience who were gripped on the edge of their seat.
With the stage in traverse and Stage 2 being used to provide seating to the rear of the stage, Cinderella has a rustic feel thanks to designer Alison Ashton's set. A thought that cross my mind as the tale began was how great Sam Glossop's sound design was. I have found myself wondering if my hearing needs checking in recent shows that I have reviewed. It was wonderful not to have a show that is not too loud or having issues with microphones etc.
Evlyne Oyedokun appears as Ella whose father (Zoe Lambert) has remarried just before his untimely death after choking on fishbone. Her step mother (also Zoe Lambert) is a cruel lady who is more interesting in gaining wealth than love. Her children become the bullying siblings for Ella. Ella's step-sister, performed by Peace Oseyenum, and step-brother, performed by David Fallon, may not be a pair of panto style ugly sisters but their treatment of Ella is unpleasant.
The show features some puppetry as Ella enjoys the birds outside and, in this tale, the Prince looking for a bride would rather be bird watching. Charlie Venables' Prince is happy to tick off the bird varieties in his little Collins Bird Guide. He is impressed when he meets Ella with her ability to recreate the bird calls. He doesn't reveal his true identity but he invites Ella to "a social gathering with dancing". The trouble is that her new step mother would rather her own flesh and blood attended the event in hope that they marry the prince and have access to his wealth.
The narrative seems to be following a familiar pattern but this show is happy to makes subtle changes which helps keep the tale fresh. Having Katie Tranter hosting the show as the Queen, for example, helps the plot to make sense.
An aspect of the Northern Stage Christmas show in recent years that really works is the use of live musicians on stage. It helps lift the energy of the show and visually works well.
It is not a panto but there is audience participation. A couple of chances for the audience to help Cinderella en masse. In addition a couple of adults get involved too, one is chatted up and another is interviewed by the Prince about relationships. Some children have their feet checked to see if they fit Cinderella's DM boot which they clearly enjoyed. Fun fact - it is the third show this season in which something has hit me after being sent flying from the stage.
Cinderella is a charming show that entertains, and with a running time just under 2 hours it is ideal for families. A talented ensemble work hard to deliver a fun tale. The proof of the pudding could be heard from sound of the children reacting at various points - their uncontrolled remarks showing that they were fully engaged. A job well done.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Pamela Raith Photography