Ella Enchanted

This production is based on Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, a young adult novel that previously inspired Anne Hathaway’s second turn as a movie princess. Despite the older age group that the original book is aimed at, this is very much a show for children, and serves as an excellent way to keep the kids entertained and engaged for 1hr 15mins of the festival.

This is a feminist play, not just another disney-like princess tale

The cast is perfect with its young audience throughout. Stephanie Neurerburg’s Ella is in the room from the get go, greeting the children and having some lovely conversations with them before the show commences. In-character throughout, Neurerburg, and indeed the rest of the cast, remain conscious of their audience’s age and are wholly accommodating to them. It’s really lovely to see the cast enjoy the children’s responses, and occasionally make asides to them without stalling the action of the play.

The script tells Ella’s tale through a mix of narration and direct dialogue. Fully in line with the medieval yet modern setting of the play, the show uses quite sophisticated language, but I was happily surprised to see that the kids in the audience were totally captivated by it all despite this. Perhaps they were all the more enthralled because they were being spoken to properly, not talked down to.

Only Neurerburg stuck to the one character, Ella. The rest of the cast played a plethora of characters each. It could have been confusing to see Bethan Fenwick play both Ella’s mother and stepmother, and Harold Addo play both a gross old suitor and the dashing prince, but the actor’s clear characterisations and excellent use of costume made sure this was not an issue for anyone enjoying the show. Lisa Dierick was the standout performer, both as the loathsome Hattie and as the bemusing fairy Lucinda. Her facial expressions and voice were perfect. Bethan Fenwick's Dame Olga and Colin Fewell’s Sir Peter are definitely worth mentioning too. Their interactions with the audience were particularly delightful, and their ‘romance’ was brilliantly comic.

The play could not have worked without the wonderful Stephanie Neurerburg, who not only played Ella as a likeable, fun and inspiring young woman, but who is also responsible for the novel’s adaptation to a play. It’s definitely truer to the original novel than the movie, and though the pacing in parts was a little slow, Neurerburg’s scripting choices combined with director Frankie Regalia’s decisions worked well. The most serious moments in the performance never weighed too heavily as they were always offset by comic pieces straight after. This allowed the performance to get significant messages across while always keeping its target audience focussed.

This is a feminist play, not just another disney-like princess tale. It is absolutely not just for girls; it is for all children to enjoy as it in no way promotes stereotypes. It triumphs independence. It doesn’t preach. It reveals knowledge in the same way that any childhood classic does. Its message is about understanding self and treating others well. In this day and age that is an important lesson for anyone to take. I would definitely recommend this one for families looking for an enjoyable pre-lunch show. 

Reviews by Ailish George

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The Blurb

Ella is cursed with the "gift" of obedience. After her mother dies and father remarries, Ella begins a journey to break the curse – battling ogres, meeting giants, and trying to avoid her evil stepsisters. After becoming tangled in a possible romance with Prince Charmont, her curse makes things more complicated – does she accept his proposal and endanger the kingdom, or break her own heart and let him go? Adapted from Gail Carson Levine's novel, Ella Enchanted is an empowering retelling of the classic Cinderella story, where a young woman gains freedom through personal strength and love.