This is Cinderella, but not as you know it. A prince who literally eats his feelings, a lack of fairy godmothers and a pair of tapdancing ugly sisters – much of what Factory Compagnia Transadriatica has done with this production is new and interesting. Although there are no pumpkins or talking mice, we were treated to three balls which meant three different ballgowns for our heroine, something which you could tell the younger (and some of the older) girls in the audience absolutely loved.
Performed almost entirely silently – with the exception of lectures from the stepmother and a couple of words from the other characters – this production has a balletic feel due to the movements of Cinderella and her sisters. A succession of dance pieces are performed to jazzy musical numbers, such as ‘Somethin Stupid’ and ‘Sing Sing Sing’. The ugly sisters manage the difficult feet of performing impressive physical movements while looking repulsive, appearing both graceful and clumsy. Cinderella is the gamine type, dancing about like a miniature ballet dancer in her bare feet. This makes her seem a little bit like an elegant doll, an impression that is only added to by the set. Characters appear through the giant wardrobe that dominates the stage, making the production appear like it is taking place in a child’s bedroom. The only exception is the stepmother who appears from above the wardrobe, controlling her daughters from on high like some sort of puppet master. When she finally comes out from behind the wardrobe, a shocking revelation in her appearance ensures that she continues to dominate the stage.
Their new interpretation of the fairytale has given it new layers of meaning. By imagining the prince as old and fat they have rejuvenated this classic tale, making the relationship between him and Cinderella more real. From the outset shoes are emphasised as the ugly sisters hobble about in their high heels to the amusement of the audience. Perhaps this is a comment on our society and its idealisation of some unrealistic feminine body type. I hope so, at least. The fact that I can read this much into it, however, hints at a weakness to the production: many curious and interesting devices are left open and unexplained, while the characterisation of the prince occasionally comes across as rather peculiar. Meanwhile, other points are laboured too much. While repetition is a key device in children’s shows, its use here appears to goes on for too long when they could have spent more time developing some of their other very clever ideas.
However, this is an interesting and unusual performance of Cinderella, one worth considering if you want something a little bit different.