There’s a twist to the classic recipe for Cinderella in Travelling Light and Tobaco Factory Theatres’ dark and imaginative version of the Brothers Grimm tale.
Cinders is ‘Ella’ here (Isabella Marshall), and she’s outdoorsy and bright, matched not with a glass slipper but a pair of sparkly Doc Martens.
That essential ingredient, the wicked stepmother, is played by cross-dressing Craig Edwards. In a show peppered with physical transformations managed adeptly by the cast, this is the first, as he changes from kindly father to hateful stepmother. She reaches her nasty peak in the second half, wielding a cleaver on her own children (a moment younger audience members may want to watch through peeping hands).
Next, you’d take two wicked sisters: here, there’s a brother – inept but kindly, played for laughs by Dorian Simpson, and the excellent Lucy Tuck playing both the more predictably grasping sister and a very convincing Queen.
When it comes to the fairy godmother, this time the magic is spread by a flock of birds, played with humour by the ensemble, the same flock which attracts the prince (Joey Hickman). He is no Disney cut-out, but an endearing asthmatic ornithologist.
With a pared-down set, it’s the music and costumes that are centre stage, and the versatile band showcases everything from bebop to accordion. In a tragicomic moment a specialist plate-smasher joins the stepmother on stage to provide the sound effects for her destructive rant.
As a show for all ages, this definitely fits the bill. For the kids, there is visual wizardry – like the whirl of neon tutus at the ball – and, after the interval, some audience interaction. But this gripping show has more than an eye on the adults – and enough pace to keep everyone wanting more.
Cinderella: a Fairytale continues at Tobacco Factory Theatres until Sunday, January 22. For more info and to book tickets, visit www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com/shows/cinderella-a-fairytale