Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cinderella at the Lyric

Is there such a thing as too dark for children? I’m not sure; I seem to recall my tastes ran to the macabre when I was small. I remember adoring a book of Slavic folk tales as a child in which all manner of nasty things happened to people and I have, in fact, become far more squeamish as I’ve gotten older.

The point of all this being that, while there’s a decent drizzle of gore in Melly Still’s staging of Cinderella at the Lyric, I suspect all but the smallest will be fine with it. However, as Webcowgirl's experience bears out, this is probably not the show for sensitibve five year olds.

Still has created a de-Disneyed family production that adults will respond to as much as children. The show takes its cues from the fairy-godmother-free Brothers Grimm version of the tale, with a few borrowed myths thrown in for good measure. The acting is fine, if a bit hampered by the story-telling nature of the production and the mass of back-story, but it’s the invention with which the tale is told that really lift this above the level of standard Christmas fare. That and the music. The music is quite wonderful.

This is provided by very tall Norwegian musician called Terje Isungset who sits in a small nest at the top of the stage playing an array of unusual instruments including an old bicycle, a mouth harp which apparently was made from part of a Second World War fighter plane and a trumpet made of ice. His unique percussion is an integral part of the show, driving it along.

The set is also glorious-looking, full of silver birch trees. Suspended above the stage is a circle of paper snow pigeons strung together like a mobile. More of these same paper birds are worn by the actors as glove puppets (yes, more puppets) who then flutter their fingers and make cooing noises to bring the pigeons to life.

At the interval, the production spills over into the bar (hurrah). This is where the Royal Ball, in which the Prince will search for his future bride (having already met, fallen for and then forgotten Cinderella while hunting a stag in the forest), takes place. For reasons that will become clear during the show, audience members on leaving their seats are draped in blue pashminas before filing downstairs. The Lyric has employed extra ‘guests’ to mingle during the ball, and while sipping my wine and looking wall-flowery, I was approached by a leggy thing in a blue evening gown who was apparently channeling my great aunt, as she told me I would never land myself a husband if I didn’t join in and dance.

The last few scenes are quite gleefully nasty in a way, which if you know the Grimm version of the story, you will have anticipated. Feet and eyeballs are both involved. This actually seems a bit excessive given that the not all that ugly sisters in Still’s production (entertainingly played by Katherine Manners and Kelly William) are cruel in a recognizably childish way rather than simply evil, but even so they are made to pay for being awful to their slightly simpering step-sister.

None of the children sitting around me seemed horribly trauamtised by all this - though I saw a couple of adults hiding their faces - and at around two hours, including a lengthier than normal interval to account for the ball, it didn’t outstay its welcome at all.

Incidently the prince is played by Daniel Weyman, who I stalked a tiny weeny bit once, but only for a few minutes by mistake, more of a walking-in-the-same-direction-as than a stalking really.


Anonymous said...

For me (a 45-year-old man writes), more disturbing than any of the gore was the entirely plausible makeover given to the sisters. Their behaviour towards Cinderella struck me as a chilling portrait of sibling or peer-group pressure, which only lightened a little at the ball when they started competing with each other as well.

Interval Drinks said...

I agree. Some of the scenes with the sisters transported me right back to my schooldays (and not in a good way). The way they veered between outright nastiness and faux-friendliness, was particularly well done; the bitchiness and manipulation all too familiar.

Having said that, I still think the fate that befell them was a bit extreme - though some horrible dark part of me found the eye-gouging hugely amusing - it was the red elastic that did it I think!