It’s impossible to sit through Sarah Punshon’s Cinderella without a smile on your face. The Dukes’ tiny theatre space is a whirl of fairy lights, foliage and one rather impressive tree. Riana Duce’s wide-eyed and sweet-voiced Ella befriends the birds and out-smarts her very wicked stepmother (Michael Hugo, having a whale of a time).
Dukes stalwart Helen Longworth is huge fun as the wicked stepsister, gurning and stomping her way through the familiar story, and Craig Anderson is an absolute treat as the morally conflicted stepbrother. Waleed Hammad makes for a sweetly asthmatic prince, almost overcome at the thought of finding a fellow bird-lover with whom to spend his time.
Kate Scott’s costumes, especially the ballgowns, are a brilliant riot of colour and fun, and the show’s heartfelt message is sweet without becoming saccharine. It’s also unexpectedly funny, with the cast’s sharp ad libs adding to an entertaining script and astute direction.
It’s not without fault – there are some cheap laughs at the expense of the stepbrother in a frock, and the rap at the end is excruciating – but if you’re looking for a family Christmas show, this is a complete delight.