Cinderella, at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
Don’t expect a Fairy Godmother, a glittering coach or any of the trappings of panto tradition in Melly Still and Ben Power’s back-to-Brothers Grimm version of this familiar story.
But do expect some gruesome come-uppances for the stepmother and stepsisters. The audience gasped with shocked disbelief as heels were sliced and toes chopped off in vain attempts to make Cinderella’s shoe fit, but as far as I could tell the children loved it.
The production, first staged last year at the Lyric Hammersmith, is soundly based in theatrical storytelling, with the busy cast providing a range of supporting characters including the puppet birds who play such an influential role in the story.
The impressive set incorporates a forest of real silver birch trees (see the programme note for an explanation of how this is sustainable) and a platform supporting the array of ad hoc percussion on which, together with mouth harp, Saul Eisenberg recreates Terje Isungset’s remarkable original score.
In this version the narrative wraps ingeniously around itself, with an initial encounter between the Prince and Cinderella which is wiped from his memory by an accident. Compared to the familiar pantomime grotesques the stepsisters start off seeming quite human, gradually acquiring the habit of cruelty.
While not entirely free of mannerisms, this is an impressive piece of ensemble storytelling, and the hardworking company doesn’t even get a break during the interval, when the fun moves to the foyer.
Running time: Two hours. Until Jan 3 (Saturdays only until Dec 22).