Review: Cinderella the Midnight Princess

The Rose Theatre’s festive offering this year is Charles Way’s charming adaption of the Cinderella rags-to-riches fairytale. Set in late eighteenth century Germany, in a kingdom devastated by a mysterious sickness and ruled by a king who refuses to leave his bed, the scene is set for Cinderella and her kitchen boy-prince to fall in love. Suddenly Mozart, with an impressive wig and powdered face, bursts onto the stage. Raffish and eccentric, William Postlethwaite’s Mozart is in fact Prince Sebastian’s best friend as well as the court musician, and Postlethwaite gives the most memorable performance of the evening. Jenny Bede and Laura Prior are wonderfully believable as Cinderella’s stepsisters, Aloysia and Constanze, devoted to each other but increasingly desperate to get their hands on some royal “ML” (Married Life). And Cinderella? There’s a sense that Faye Castelow’s wretched kitchen girl is overshadowed by all the comedy and magic going on around her, but her feisty resilience and visible enjoyment persecuting her stepsisters give Castelow some room for expression.

Dominating the set is a giant clock, a constant reminder of the flow of time which, when you are in fairyland, can of course stop or race through the hours. Designer Ruari Murchison keeps the set simple, using tree images to give a natural feel and Christmas pines strung with lights for the festive element. The king’s revolving bed converts into Cinderella’s carriage and her kitchen-bedroom, creating an easy transition between spaces. The unclutteredness leaves plenty of room for the magic, which comes in the form of the lavish, silky period costumes and creative use of lighting by Paul Keogan.

The Rose Theatre’s production of Cinderella is the ideal seasonal offering, charming and full of wonder. Children will love the beautiful costumes and the carefully-pitched humour, and although everyone knows the tale inside out, Charles Way’s version plays with the “facts” of the story and the psychology of the characters to create a story that is significantly different and more complex than the original. This is a production for all ages, or rather for everyone who’s still young enough at heart to accept the power of magic and the existence of true love. For what could be more attractive at this time of year than the enchantment of a perfect, happily-ever-after ending?

Cinderella the Midnight Princess will be at the Rose Theatre in Kingston until Sunday 6 January. For more information and to book tickets, visit the Rose Theatre website.