In Trish Cooke’s entertaining rewrite of the Cinderella story for Stratford East, the Baron is an undiscovered – or as Buttons puts it, therefore “skint” – artist, and after the death of his wife, marries Woz Mine-Izzmine, the patron who buys his work. But she’s only after his title so that her two daughters Sugary and Spicy can have a shot at marrying the Prince. And since in Guadalumpa, the fictional French African Caribbean island where this Cinderella is set, succession to the throne is only made by women – whoever marries the prince would end up succeeding Queen Eugenie (who is desperate to marry off her son so she can surrender the throne that she’s had quite enough of occupying).
Prince Leo, however, in his trainer-wearing bling, is happy partying with his gold-suited constant companion Don Dini, until he is captivated by Ella (as Cinderella is called), and now wants to marry for love. But she’s not easily impressed by his status. Thus the stage is set for a vibrant contemporary take on the classic tale. But if there are some weird inconsistencies – she doesn’t even get to try on the slipper that’s always the driving point of the plot – it is also appealingly fresh and funny.
Though not quite in the vintage mould of previous Stratford shows and let down a bit in the ‘wow’ stakes by a sparse but elegant set, it is enthusiastically driven by the strong cast that includes Darren Hart’s personable Buttons, Debbie Korley’s enchanting Ella, and Michael Bertenshaw’s imperious Dame, who seems to be channelling Ian McKellen this year.