This production is based on Gail Carson Levine’s
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.