Once upon a time there was a girl named Cinderella who pined for her late mother and had to sleep in the kitchen. She also bit people, played childish pranks on her stepsisters and was rather sulky and moody.
Katy Secombe (Fairy Godmother) and Faye Castelow (Cinderella) in Cinderella - the Midnight Princess at the Rose Theatre, Kingston Photo: Manuel Harlan
If you’re looking for obvious “I-recognise-her-from-the-telly” panto Christmas entertainment, you’re eyeing up the wrong pumpkin. In a twist to this well-known fairytale, writer Charles Way has constructed a rather more sophisticated real-to-life portrayal of a girl who hides her grief and vulnerability behind a facade of bravado and stroppiness.
Her prince sneaks out regularly disguised as a street urchin, dominated by his father the king who refuses to wash or leave his bed. Joining the party are struggling court composer Mozart and his musical and romantic contemporaries Aloysia and Constanze Weber as Cinderella’s singing and dancing stepsisters.
Director Rachel Kavanaugh effectively intertwines a timeless story set in 18th-century Germany with modern language and contemporary references supplied by Way. Music and movement vary fluently between violin-accompanied court dancing and the stepsisters (adorned in colourful food-stamping Doc Martens) squabbling delightfully through tandem hip hop grooving.
Jack Monaghan gives a vibrant performance as Prince Sebastian, though his chemistry with Faye Castelow’s slightly lacklustre Cinderella seems rather reserved. Katy Secombe is a perfectly cast Fairy Godmother with the best vocal projection of the evening (younger cast members, take note). Ultimately, though, recent LAMDA graduate William Postlethwaite as the prince’s best friend Mozart makes the strongest mark here with wonderfully detailed physicality, completely captivating the audience with his jester-like shenanigans.
In proclaiming the crucial line of the evening: “Music is the key that unlocks the beating heart from the chest”, the Rose Theatre Kingston proves to be the key that continues to unlock rather classy productions from the chest of annual festive offerings.