Theatre in Wales

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Some Great Moments of Theatre Here

Cinderella

The Wardens Company , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , January-12-18
Cinderella by The Wardens Company Good structure starts on a high note. Richard Cheshire's 2018 opening scene puts Donna Richards' Fairy Godmother on stage with a cluster of fairies and elves. The two elves protest that they do not want to be classified as fairies. The players are little, aged eight or nine, but their enunciation is clear. After all, they say, “We’re the National Elf Service.”

The two are totally winning. The company has a large number of young performers in three groups spread over the two weeks of performance. On this night the scene-stealers look to be Iestyn Duggan and Owen Jac Roberts. Thirty children in all play the magical and animal roles on different nights. In addition “Cinderella” has another thirty players on stage of teenage years upwards. The company is overwhelmingly youthful. Given that “community” is a word traded and misused in the counsels of arts policy this is it. Aberystwyth does it for real.

The Wardens is Wales' most enduring theatre company. To say that it is a well-tooled machine is a compliment. It knows its audience so that for the two-week run there is not a seat to be had. It is the first theatre of the year and it feels good to be in a packed auditorium. But it has also adapted and plays to its strengths. The script for “Cinderella” is leaner and less peripatetic than other stories. There is no-stand up string of jokes. Marcus Dobson's high-velocity Buttons does not spend time in banter. He places a box early on at the side of the stage and asks the audience to alert him to prowlers. The audience does so, regularly and loudly.

The comedy peaks are visual and collective. “If I were not upon this stage...” is regular, reliable and inspired. The line-up of gesturing referee, golfer, polisher and others are played by Ioan Guile, Carl Ryan, Marcus Dobson, Theresa Jones, Rae Lewis and Julie McNicholls Vale. The last is back on stage after an absence for the very best reason in the world. She even brings back the jokey reference to the Cambrian News. She and Rae Lewis as sisters Verruca and Hernia have a bouncy malice to them. Their most common exit line is “shut your faces” addressed to the audience.

True to its tradition the language belongs happily to another time. A lyric rhymes “sparkle” with “Markle” but this is still a world where “nit” and “nincompoop” are the terms of insult. Buttons ends up as Sir Buttons of Buttonia after a surreal short escapade with a light sabre and declaration that it is he who is the true last Jedi.

A linchpin is the music. Elinor Powell is a veteran, again intended as praise, in the pit. The quality of forty voices in harmony stirs. The six-strong band includes Llew Evans' guitar. The princely ball requires fanfares of announcement and Nils Marggraf-Turley's trumpet pumps them out soaringly. Ciaran Connolly is choreographer for the dancers Mary Grace-Woods, Tia Goffin, Manon Izri, Naomi Thorogood, Holly Stables and Hannah Sefton.

In the front roles Cinderella is shared by Maeve Courtier Lily and Angharad Russell Evans. One debuted on the Aberystwyth stage at the age of four and the other at age six. The Wardens in this respect follow the advice of the Jesuits. Sion Hurford has a lordly swagger as the Lord Chamberlain. Alex Neil again has stature, voice and experience to be both princely and charming.

The colours are bright and primary, a forest of deep green, a court of cream and silver. And the first act closes with a transformation scene of wonder. Had John Tiffany been given it he could not have made it better. The singing soars. A coach and white horse with beating wings rises from the stage. Richard Cheshire has executed a costume change for Cinderella that startles. The visual sleight-of-hand is simple and utterly deceptive. The audience applauds its magic. It is total theatre.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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