Review: Cinderella at the Mill Arts Centre
"You don’t want to throw heavy items at the protagonist (played by Sophie Greenham)"
It’s not all that far into Act One of Creation Theatre’s Cinderella (directed by Helen Tennison) at the Mill in Banbury, and a bag is thrust into my hands as I sit donning mucky jeans in row A.
“You look like a strong man, come on,” Géhane Strehler in the role of Melvina, one of Creation’s ugly sister equivalents, commands of me. I stand up and follow her, armed with her luggage, around the block that serves as the evening’s stage before she beckons me up onto the boards. Pointing, she tells me to put the bag down “there!” And I obey, only to be told to then move it elsewhere, before I’m finally allowed to take my pew as an audience member again.
And there it was. I had been properly and publicly used by one of the most marvellous comic characters I’ve ever seen on a stage. She is as wonderfully horrid as Patsy Stone and has all the aggression, eccentricity, selfishness and malice a John Waters devotee could ask for. Sadly she does not order me to carry her bags again.
She is not accompanied on stage by another ugly sister; instead Creation opts for a brother, Lester (Lewis Chandler). Arrogant, hysterical, beyond snobbish, he combines with Melvina to form a double act well worth driving along the M40 straight from work with a stomach lined only by coffee and wine gums for.
They’re contributors in what may be described as a distorted panto. There are pantomime components – a red handkerchief that’s meant to be blood, one corny joke, exaggerated characteristics – but they are in a mixing bowl with sinister puppetry and original songs composed by Ben Davies.
The show also differs from your standard panto insofar as you don’t want to throw heavy items at the protagonist (played by Sophie Greenham). By showing us a healthy dose of Cinderella’s personality and spirit before the intrusion of a wicked stepmother and her two children, which sees her become the lonely doer of nothing but chores she hates, we get to know the character that is being stifled, and thus urge her out of such confinement.
Placing in the top ten of TripAdvisor’s ‘169 things to do in Oxford’, Creation has – for a second year – shown its face in Banbury, exploiting the diversity of the Mill Arts Centre with a warming and wonderful rendition of a classic story, and treating us to gifted, adaptable character actors who never miss a beat.
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