Review: Cinderella at the Stephen Joseph Theatre

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It’s not often that tears are a ringing endorsement of a Christmas fairytale; but my four-year old daughter’s distress at the end of the Stephen Joseph’s production of Cinderella was an emotive indication of it’s success. Put simply, she didn’t want it to end.

Like Shakespeare’s plays, the universal themes of fairy tales prevent them from being tethered to a time or setting, bequeathing a creative company with the latitude to sculpt their own context.

Andrew Pollard’s adaptation of Cinderella does just that, drawing the traditional tale to contemporary Scarborough. Bereft after the death of his wife, fisherman Woody Drift (Paul Ryan) falls under the “spell” of manipulating widow May Force (Becky Hindley) and before he can say “mayday” he’s manoeuvred into selling his beloved boat for a residence more befitting of his egocentric bride.

All the ingredients of this traditional fairytale are here. Ella Drift ( Martina Horrigan) is an enchanting heroine, played with just the right combination of spirit and goodness, willing to see the best in others even when they take advantage of her good nature.

Prince Charming appears in the guise of Sevril Pence (Iddon Jones) who prefers a surfboard and the freedom of the seas to castles & carriages but still promises a happily ever after..

May Force and her daughter Gail (Howard Gossington) are exuberant baddies who had my daughter gleefully clutching my sleeve in terror whenever they approached and the audience booing & hissing as they schemed their way through the play.

The round invites inclusiveness and the cast of Cinderella used this to their advantage, pulling the audience into the performance and even letting them steal the show at points. Who there tonight will forget Sevril wondering after he first meets Ella if she likes him, only to be upstaged by a small voice shouting out “no she doesn’t!”

In line with the rest the performance, Jan Bee Brown’s designs were innovative with a nod at tradition, making the ordinary extraordinary; fairytale gown and all.

Every story needs it’s supporting cast and Scarborough’s Young Performers continue to deliver the high standard that merits their inclusion in such a professional and engaging performance; maybe it won’t be too long before they get to play the lead in their own once upon a time.