Cinderella at Octagon Theatre, Bolton - ReviewOn Monday night Ian, Bud, LM and I attended the press night for Cinderella at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton. The Octagon is our local theatre so we were delighted to take the children for their first experience of this theatre, and to see their Christmas 2016 show. I'm no fan of the traditional pantomime (even though the children are) so I was looking forward to the Octagon's festive alternative.
Ben Occhipintii's production takes the traditional fairy tale and modernises it with a completely different take on the story. Remember the mice in the animated version? Well, these become the kitchen rats of Cinderella's home and her unexpected allies who tell the story from their slightly quirky, and often sweetly innocent perspective.
The play has a tiny company, of just six actors, with the five rats taking on the additional roles including ugly sisters, stepmother and prince, and just a change of headgear making the switch. In addition to telling the story through their dialogue, the rats play grand piano, double bass and percussion instruments on stage, while singing too! The tubular bells especially provide a really festive note, there's something about hearing them struck that instantly transports me to Christmas. It's a hugely energetic production with few of the cast leaving the stage for too long and props and costume changes being hidden in the corners of Cinders' kitchen .
There are some surprising elements, watch out for the terrific stepsisters - Thisun and Thatun, played by Alicia McKenzie and Anne O'Riordan - who offer the truly 'laugh out loud' moments of comedy in their short time on stage, without any of the 'boo hiss' responses generated in pantomime, and are real fun as their rat alter egos Claws and Teeth too. Alexander Bean is very sweet as Whiskers and slightly bewildered as the prince who has to take a wife while Tomas Wolstenholme switches from a brief, but compelling, turn as Cinders' father through Ears the rat to a King who has decided that his son needs to marry and the sooner the better! As the Stepmother Felicity Sparks gives the play the antagonist but balances this with her beautiful piano playing and warmth as Tails the Rat. Cinderella herself is played beautifully by Lucy Faint and she brings a sympathetic realness to the role that has the audience rooting for her from the very start.
My children are 4 and 6 and they were utterly delighted by the whole play. In fact, LM cried all the way to the car after the final curtain as she didn't want it to end. When asked what her favourite part was she chose everything! Bud loved the male rats, predictably, and I was struck by the fact that he would probably pronounce the animated and live action film versions of Cinderella as 'girly' but this production definitely wasn't and really appealed to him. The familiar love story is dialed down somewhat and it's really a true story of friendship and beating the odds.
Cinderella runs at Octagon Theatre Bolton until Saturday 14th January 2017. To book tickets visit octagonbolton.co.uk/ we would highly recommend it!