Cinderella: the Midnight Princess, Rose Theatre, Kingston


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The Independent Culture

A massive clock with a complicated system of whirring cogs dominates Ruari Murchison's fetching, resourceful set. It betokens how time is of the essence in Charles Way's inventive, charming, if slightly stuffy, reworking of the Cinderella story at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

His new version locates the proceedings in the late eighteenth century German court of a land that has been struck down by a mysterious, often fatal, illness.

Imagining that the people lay the blame on him, Timothy Kightley's amusingly hypochondriac and cowardly King has refused to get out of bed for the past four years (his sheets are grey with grime) and has lost all track of whether it is day or night. 

Sniffing insurrection everywhere, he has dismissed his servants but can't understand why his meals have ceased to materialise on cue.

It's no wonder that the Prince (Jack Monaghan) has taken to sneaking from the castle, disguised as a kitchen boy. Incognito, he pays regular visits to Cinderella, a clock-maker's daughter, who is another case of time regrettably suspended. 

The household clock stopped the day the heroine's mother died and Faye Castelow paints a hauntingly wistful portrait of a girl trapped in grief and hiding her hurt behind a show of stubborn, sulkily dismissive truculence. This is a Cinderella who bites her twin step-siblings (a screechily mirthless pair here) and even has resort to the same tactics with the Prince in order to meet her midnight deadline.  

There is much to enjoy in Rachel Kavanaugh's production, presided over by Katy Secombe's endearing, matronly Fairy Godmother who complains that it's a hard profession for a woman of her age as trips around wafting the white dove that is her alias. 

The most striking twist in this adaptation is that the Prince's best friend is the young Mozart no less, a struggling court composer portrayed by William Postlethwaite as an eccentric fop with a high-pitched whinnying laugh. Hence the songs which are performed to tinkly, beguiling arrangements of tunes from The Magic Flute.  

For younger children, though, there isn't enough full-bloodied slapstick. We could be shown more of the mean tricks Cinderella plays on the step-sisters. The King's dotty determination to hold the Ball in his bedroom has a comic potential that's largely wasted. 

The kids at the performance I attended seemed to be captivated but not bowled over by version that's perhaps a bit too wordy and tasteful for its own good. 

To January 6; 0844 821 556