When I hear the word culture, I reach for my chewing gum / THEATRE

Cinderella / Manchester; The Tinder Box / N Staffs

Let's hear it for the real stars of the Christmas shows. First the ushers: the woman on the door at the Vic in Newcastle under Lyme, genial and welcoming, but whom no potentially explosive can shall pass; the young people at Contact in their less than modish Cinderella T-shirts stitching a complex pattern of groups and schools across the rows so that no child is left with trembling lip amid some alien horde. Then the women with bin-bags, the teachers, group-leaders and helpers who have sold the t ickets, booked the coach, taken them to the lavatory and intend that not one wrapper or straw will be littered in their wake. Marshalling six or seven hundred excited and often street-wise 6 to 11-year-olds within the decorum of theatre-going is no task for wimps. It presents a scene that glib commentators on social decay, failing education and the abandonment of childcare would do well to ponder.

And the kids listen. True there's a constant susurrus of bags and packets, a few yawns and the odd facetious shout, but their attention spans much further than is fashionably believed. Peter Whelan's first play for children, The Tinder Box, adapted from a Hans Christian Andersen story, is unfamiliar and quite densely plotted, but it was readily followed, and the deductions required to contribute the necessary magic words to help out the hero, obviously easy-peasy. Stuart Paterson's Cinderel la, the Playmakes fewer demands, but does have a more complex story to tell in that both the Prince and a kitchen-boy are vying for Cinderella's affections. Both scripts rely primarily upon dialogue and character, and both clearly absorbed the overwhelm ing majority of their young audiences.

At Contact, the new artistic director, Benjamin Twist, has chosen to make Cinderella his debut production. In view of the theatre's brief as a space for young people, it is an admirably committed decision to eschew a more fashionable occasion. The show suggests that we might expect fluid, clearly presented work.

This impression is much enhanced by Simon Banham's strikingly simply but colourful set of many curtains, and Twist's skilful use of them to move the narrative. He has also found a strong young lead in the newcomer Naomi Radcliffe, but the boldest single feature is a brilliant ensemble kitchen routine in which the cast, led by percussionist Tim Williams, bang out Mark Vibrans's score on a collection of pots and pans.

The musical interludes in The Tinder Box are less original, but the text is so strong that they are less vital. The two stories - of the homeless soldier back from the wars who, under the guidance of a witch, acquires wealth and a magic tinder box from aperilous descent into the underworld, and of a princess locked away by her parents in a copper tower because a fortune-teller has said she will fall in love with a common soldier - have a predictable convergence, but the twists and turns are always intriguing.

Playing the soldier, another promising young actor (Daniel Tomlinson) has a strong bearing and sympathetic presence. His advice on sleeping out, with special reference to rats and snakes, will have been well- heeded: a bit of practical learning in the broad social education that is Christmas theatre.

n `Cinderella' runs until 14 Jan. Box-office: 061-274 4400

n `The Tinder Box' is in rep to 28 Jan. Box-office: 01782 717962

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz