CINDERELLA at Greenwich Theatre
Walt Disney has a lot to answer for with his relentless airbrushing of old world folk tales. Take Cinderella, for example. Yes, the ugly sisters are unpleasant but a fairy godmother and an overdose of sweetness and magic keeps all but the vaguest hints of darkness firmly at bay.
I’m delighted to report, however, that director James Haddrell and his Greenwich Theatre team have ditched Disney and gone back to the Grimm brothers for their take on the Cinderella story – and it’s a gory delight.
Writers Sally Cookson and Adam Peck have devised an entertainment that achieves a perfect blend of gothic menace and childlike hilarity, a combination made even richer by the brilliant original songs of composer and musical director David Haller.
And what a cast this show has – multitaskers who can act, sing, dance, tell jokes, play instruments and improvise with an audience ranging from toddlers to grandparents yet still manage to convey the essential sadness of brutally exploited orphan Cinders.
She is beautifully played by Addy Caulder-James, who gets equally splendid support from Rishi Manuel as the prince, Pete Ashmore as the loathsome stepmother, Lara Lewis and Harry Edwin as her step-siblings and David Haller as, among others, the prince’s mother.
There’s a plethora of contemporary gags for adults as well as silly ones for kids, lots of well-received interaction with the audience, a great running joke about cross-dressing and a wonderfully excruciating digression on chat-up lines. But there’s plenty of darkness, too, not least in the stepmother’s cruelty and a joyously OTT bloodbath at the end which I won’t spoil for you but which the youngsters in the auditorium absolutely adored. All I will say is: Who knew horror could be so much fun?
Finally, a special mention is due to Matthew Keywood’s deceptively simple lighting design, a tight grid of multicoloured bulbs that cleverly become trees, windows, doors, stars, the Moon and, in an inspired lightbulb moment, a… lightbulb. It’s brilliant, just like the rest of the show.
Picture: Lidia Crisafulli