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Cinderella - Derby Theatre Review

Reviewed by Bethany Hill
Disclaimer: tickets were gifted in return for an honest review.

Forget what you know about a typical production of Cinderella! Say goodbye to Buttons, farewell to the fairies and hello to a brand new, reimagined production. Created by Annie Siddons, Derby Theatre’s Christmas show for the year brings festive fun and an ode to Derbyshire that promises to bring joy to the city through this Yuletide season.

Photo by Graeme Braidwood

Poor Gabriella has been dealt a rough hand. Following the death of her mother, her father then is forced to move to the city for work, leaving her living with her idle, money-grabbing stepmother and cruel stepsisters Lavinia and Ottilie. Jeeringly nicknamed Cinderella, Gab thinks that girls like her shouldn’t dream of magic. That is, until she meets Migel (Micah Maddox of Maddox House) in the Derbyshire hills and life will never be the same again. With a little help from a magical friend in the forest, Cinderella does indeed go to the ball and sparks jealousy from her sister Lavinia, who is determined to marry Maddox herself. In Act 2, we see a plot for revenge thicken and family allegiances tested long after midnight has struck. With magic, love and laughter, Cinderella is a treat for the whole family.

The first thing that struck me with this production was the impressive staging. Featuring fully lit Christmas trees, a beautiful hooped stage and a ticking clock overseeing in the background, the design of the set was stunning and perfectly fitting the festive feel of the production. The staging was used consistently effectively throughout, from the confines of the cottage, the hills of the Derbyshire Dales to the fabulous backdrop of Maddox hall that came down to show a clear change of location. Trap doors also made for easy use of props and a slick and seamless transition between scenes.

A second highlight of this show was its use of music, played by the actors of the show. Particularly, the use of string instruments by the step sisters added wonderful meaning and tone and at times comedy to their performances. In a similar way, multiple cast members also took part in skilful puppetry throughout, showing their many talents.

The lead romantic pair were played by Aine O’Neill-Mason and Jason Yeboa who gave us a believable romance as we watched the pair fall quickly in love with each other.

Shelley Atkinson plays Adelaide (the step mother) alongside Moritasgus the magical being and even a Vicar! I can honestly say I have never loved the step mother of this story more. Instead of an evil genius, this version shows us a woman who will do anything for an easy life and her comic timing was absolutely divine. Playing multiple characters, Shelley gave three entirely different performances and each with their own nuances and perfect comic deliveries.

Photo by Graeme Braidwood

Ottilie is played by Charlotte Rutherfoord, the sister obsessed with all things maudlin and morose. With her performance, we saw a softer side to the usually one-dimensional step sister and again her use of comedy hit the nail on the head every single time.

Playing the other, darker step-sister Lavinia was Roxana Bartle who in my opinion absolutely stole the show. Her use of voice, her physical comedy and her use of absolute over-the-top delivery left me laughing out loud any time she was on stage! Not to mention her wonderful musical talents!

Supporting this cast were Purvi Parmar who played down to earth Dorcas who works at the Manor House, Nicholas Shaw playing Gab’s sweet father and Jonathan Markwood who brought further laughter as Sir Thaddeus Maddox, lord of the manor.

The only thing that perhaps left me with questions following this performance was the exact tone of the performance as a whole. Whilst this definitely wasn’t a pantomime, there were some moments with that panto feel including some audience interaction and a comedic song ‘where are you’ which were a little surprising in keeping with the rest of the show. Perhaps this will be a new type of Christmas show in its own right, merging elements of pantomime, musical theatre and play performance in a unique way! The show clearly exuded a love for Derbyshire that the theatre itself celebrates, featuring strong Derbyshire accent and dialect that may be jarring to an audience from further afield but showed an appreciation for local culture.

As Derby Theatre’s in-house Christmas production, Cinderella provides a warm and uplifting atmosphere and makes for the perfect evening out for the whole family. I would recommend supporting your local theatre and treating yourself to a festive evening of laugher before the show closes on 31 December.

Photo by Graeme Braidwood

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