BWW Review: CINDERELLA: A FAIRYTALE, Tobacco Factory
It's easy to lose count of how many shows Bristol-based director Sally Cookson is responsible for this Christmas. This homecoming revival of Cookson's 2011 production cements her reputation as the director to turn traditional tales on their head and put bums on seats at Christmas.
Cookson and revival director Chris Pirie have gone back to the Brothers Grimm version of this tale for their inspiration, and haven't been afraid to visit the darker elements of the story (hence the 6+ advice). So move over, Disney: the saccharine damsel of the film has gone. This Cinderella (or rather Ella - a wonderful Isabella Marshall) has doc martens and an attitude to match. Her prince (Joey Hickman) is far from the Disney ideal too - a touchingly innocent but bumbling birdwatcher who needs our help to understand what love is.
Despite a slightly slow start to proceedings that may challenge younger viewers, the show picks up and worms its way into your heart. All the elements are here - a dastardly stepmother, oddball siblings and no small amount of magic. The second act brings some welcome opportunities for audience interaction and perhaps the ensemble will learn as the run continues how to get even more out of this section.
That said, the high-energy cast transitions gracefully between characters, and Benji Bower's music skilfully underscores the action while occasionally bursting into song or dance. The music and dance section in the palace is a delight as our Prince haplessly dances with the would-be princesses. The final courtship between Prince and Ella is sure to warm even the coldest of hearts this winter.
This show is the perfect antidote to the celebrity-stuffed pantos offered up by more commercial outfits. It demonstrates that Christmas shows don't have to be formulaic or even familiar - they can be wonderfully inventive pieces of storytelling every bit as worthy as the rest of the year's programming.