Step into the enchanting world of Cinderella at Derby Theatre this Christmas, where a striking new rendition of the classic tale awaits audiences of all ages. Amidst the picturesque Derbyshire countryside, join our spirited heroine, Cinderella, as she navigates the challenges posed by her money-wasting step-mother and step-sister, finding inspiration in a burgeoning new world. This production features a range of excellent elements, but is let down but a confused script and vision.
Embarking on a magical journey at Derby Theatre, the production of Cinderella unfolds with a visual feast, courtesy of the artistic prowess of Kevin Jenkins. His mastery in costume design is a symphony of colour and texture, adorning the cast in an exquisite array of outfits that transport the audience into the heart of the fairytale. The set, a marvel of ingenuity and versatility, serves as a dynamic backdrop, seamlessly transitioning between scenes and enhancing the overall visual tapestry.
At the heart of this theatrical spectacle is the standout performance by Charlotte Rutherfoord as Ottile, the goth step-sister. Rutherfoord’s portrayal is a revelation, navigating a nuanced and genuine character arc that sets Ottile apart as the sole figure in the production to undergo such a transformative journey. Her performance adds layers of depth and complexity to a character often relegated to mere caricature, leaving an indelible mark on the production.
In the realm of versatility, Shelley Atkinson and Roxana Bartle shine as they deftly take on multiple roles. Their seamless transitions between characters breathe life into each role, preventing them from succumbing to one-dimensionality that the script condemns their characters to. Jonathan Markwood, in his roles as Sir Thaddeus Obadiah Maddox and John, is a comedic virtuoso, commanding the stage with impeccable timing and injecting moments of laughter that resonate throughout the auditorium.
The melodic tapestry of the production is skillfully woven by Musical Director Jack Quarton. The music, pleasant and harmonious, adds an enchanting layer to the narrative, enriching the overall experience. Rachel Cleary’s lighting design, a masterclass in atmospheric manipulation, punctuates scenes with precision, enhancing the mood and emotional resonance. Patsy Browne-Hope’s choreography is a visual delight, working in tandem with the set and space to elevate the production’s aesthetic appeal.
However, amid this visual and auditory splendour, the production grapples with an unfortunate inconsistency in focus. The delicate balance between pantomime and serious play casts a shadow of uncertainty over the production’s intended tone. Songs, though present, lack the musical finesse you would expect from a musical, yet their inclusion is consistent throughout the show, and Annie Siddons’ script struggles with inconsistency. Dialogues, at times, feel stunted, and attempts at humour frequently miss the mark, occasionally soaring above the heads of the intended younger audience.
Curious plot points, such as Cinderella’s father’s involvement in constructing railway tracks, introduce unexpected socialist undertones that seem out of place in a family-oriented production. This puzzling choice, combined with the one-dimensional characters and occasional pantomime elements, contributes to an identity crisis that hampers the production’s ability to fully engage its audience, especially the younger viewers. Throughout, I wondered what this production was trying to be and I couldn’t come to a conclusion.
In conclusion, while Cinderella at Derby Theatre boasts visual splendour, standout performances, and a talented creative team, it grapples with an inconsistency in tone and an identity crisis that impacts its overall impact. The confusion between pantomime and serious play, combined with peculiar plot choices, unfortunately diminishes the production’s ability to provide a cohesive and immersive experience. As the magic of Cinderella unfolds, one can’t help but wish for a clearer artistic vision to guide the production into its full enchanting potential.
Cinderella plays at Derby Theatre until 31st December 2023. Tickets available here.
Photos throughout from Graeme Braidwood.