STAG Theatre, Strathmore
10 – 19 November
I spent Saturday afternoon in Strathmore to attend STAG’s latest production of The Other Cinderella. Classic fairytales have been adapted or parodied for centuries and at times, it can be a dangerous endeavour as there are always going to be critics who will tell you not to mess with classic literature, but that’s another story. The Other Cinderella was a parody through and through where the tale of Cinderella is told in an alternate reality where the title character is a brat and the wicked stepmother and stepsisters are actually the nicest human beings on the planet. Being a parody of sorts, audiences shouldn’t take the show too seriously but what I can guarantee is an enjoyable comedy suitable for all ages to make you laugh at loud on multiple occasions, perfect for the young and the young at heart.
In the director’s chair, Michele Haywood, who previously directed the show when she was just eleven years old, took another swing at Nicholas Stuart Gray’s fractured fairytale play with an adult cast and even though it had been years since she did it last, Haywood managed to recapture the innocence and farce of the play down to a T despite minimal set. She allowed the entire cast to dig deep down into their heart and soul to rediscover their inner child in a way that was unconventional and unorthodox but still humorous enough to showcase a vast sense of freedom and fun in the process. After all, what’s the point of putting on an adaptation of a timeless children’s fairytale when you can’t feel like a kid again when performing in it or in Haywood’s directing it?
While Haywood and her crew behind the scenes were bringing their fairytale kingdom to life, the cast were having a blast on stage making magic happen in more ways than one. Acting as the hosts of the show were Emily Goode as the Fairy “Godmother” desperate to give The Other Cinderella an undeserved happy ending and Gary Mills as the demon who tries to destroy everything at Satan’s command. If it wasn’t expected from the get go, both performers made it perfectly clear from their introductions that their characters were meant to despise each other, constantly bickering in a battle between “good” and “evil” but had to reluctantly work together in order for them both to achieve their goal satisfactorily. Goode and Mills bounced off each other really well and their comic timing was on fleek despite the hate their characters have for one another and seemed to have the most amusing time together in performances that were happy and hysterical. Angelo Snell and Matthew Ray, who played the Prince and his right hand man Danny respectively, may not have been as prevalent on stage as the original story and other adaptations of it, but both of them displayed such promise and proved that they were still an important part of this twisted tale. Snell and Ray had such incredible chemistry together as the two and like the two hosts of the evening, the royal buddies worked hard to bounce off each other comedy wise and gave performances that were both loyal and lauded.
Now on to the baron household. Sophie Stewart gave a frightening portrayal of the title character if she was in a role reversed reality personality wise. Stewart transformed into every parent’s worst nightmare in a way that was reminiscent to other legendary bratty characters like Veruca Salt in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and Angelica Pickles in the Rugrats franchise, acting like a stuck up princess to the point of driving those around her to insanity just as her character was supposed to in The Other Cinderella and if you’re taking your kids to see this show, her character’s actions are not to be looked up to. Despite this though, she also managed to give the other Cinderella a sense of heart in order to make her character three dimensional, resulting in a performance that was terrifying yet touching. Lonni Allan, Warwick Smith and his daughter Juliana Smith also stood out in their roles of Dame Margaret, the not so wicked stepmother, the Baron, Cinderella’s eccentric father and not so ugly stepsister Melanie respectively. It is no wonder that the Baron was not of sound mind with a spoiled daughter like the other Cinderella, but W. Smith still gave a harmonious and heartwarming performance of a man who loved everyone in his life unconditionally and would still lend a helping hand whenever he was able to, leaving him as perhaps one of the sweetest and most darling characters in the show. Meanwhile, Allan and J. Smith gave portrayals that were kind and kosher as they tried desperately to relate to their step family member and gain her blessing in the process and both actresses demonstrated that you don’t need to give in to the demands of people if you are a decent human being already.
The king and queen of this production to me though were characters you wouldn’t be able to think of first in the original tales of Cinderella yet still made quite the impression either way it goes, it was Chris De Zeeuw in the role of the Baron household’s trusted servant Barney and Anannya Musale in the role of the other not so ugly stepsister Melissa. On multiple occasions, both performers showcased that they were probably the strongest characters in the show when it came to withstanding the torment layed upon them by the other Cinderella with their no nonsense attitudes and they both gave their personas real spark and spirit in the process. Creating chemistry with an unlikeable character is the furthest thing from simple yet De Zeeuw did it with such ease as his unconditional love for the title character shined through on multiple occasions and became the most relatable in the show as he understood the real vulnerable side of her. Musale tackled her role with elegance, style and grace as she, like her sister and mother, tried to relate to her stepsister and proved to be a real trooper and leader for her family at every turn in the most regal way possible, you would think that she was re-enacting her own life story from personal experience.
The Other Cinderella is a real pantomime-esque delight of a comedy that is sure to be enjoyed by not only the local community in Strathmore but families and theatre lovers everywhere. You don’t need to take it seriously in order to have a good time as the parody continues on and you’ll love the silly nature of the show in all of it’s glory, whether you’re a child, a parent or just an adult in general. Special shoutout to Chris De Zeeuw for his portrayal of Barney you really knocked it out of the park and if you haven’t gotten tickets already, support this small theatre company as much as possible and make sure you take your kids or your siblings or your neices or nephews to this enchanting disenchanted retelling of Cinderella.
Congratulations to the cast and crew associated with STAG and The Other Cinderella for a great first weekend, chookas for the remainder of your run and best of luck for the future shows you produce in the new year.
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