Why This Modern Take on Cinderella is the Perfect Show for Christmas
You shall go to the ball!
Feisty and full of joy, Cinderella: A Fairytale is a retelling of this classic tale for anyone who has ever dreamed that good will always win. Without a glass slipper in sight, audiences should prepare to lace up their boots to join Ella on her adventure this Christmas.
Ella misses her mother and father, and her step-mother is determined to make her life a misery. Her step-brother and -sister are no help and birds seem to be her only friends. But when she meets a boy in the woods she begins to believe in the magical power of love.
An original take on one of the oldest and best-loved fairy tales, co-director Jake Smith thinks Cinderella: A Fairytale will captivate audiences. ‘There are no glass slippers here,’ he says. ‘Instead you’ll find a pair of glitterball Dr. Marten’s boots ready to stomp into an adventure with Ella and discover the power and beauty of finding your family in life.
‘This is one of the oldest stories, but I think it’s timeless because it’s a story about love, and finding your first love. That could be a love for life, or nature or finding your chosen family. Ella goes on an adventure and finds the love of her life. She meets the prince who is also a fanatic bird watcher like Ella, he invites her to the ball and the rest is history… or is it?’
This version of the tale draws on the traditional Italian influences of the story and elements of the Grimms’ Tale. ‘Cinderella lives in a magical forest, she loves nature and birds,’ Jake explains. ‘Birds remind her of her mother and father. These aren’t any normal birds though, they are enchanted and help Ella in times of need, especially against her step-mother.
‘We’ve harnessed the heritage of the story and connected it to a world that meets ours via 1980s pop culture and the cinematic stylings of Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl. The music, by composer Ziad Jabero from The Baghdaddies, has the beating heart of our region and is inspired by its communities. But this story could take place in any woodland clearing, park or natural space our audience might know and be able to connect with.’
The casting team put out an open call and saw a long list of actors across the region, as well as right across the country. They’ve uncovered some amazing local actors that haven’t been in a Northern Stage Christmas show before, including a clown from Cirque du Soleil.
Evlyne Oyedokun will play Ella, and following a fantastic photoshoot at the Newcastle Dr. Marten’s shop, she’s looking forward to beginning rehearsals for the show. ‘I never ever thought I’d get to play Cinderella or any kind of fairytale character so I’m really excited,’ says Evelyne. ‘And this is a really different version – Ella has so much wit and charm and energy; she’s her own person, she’s strong and she’s got a voice.’
Completing the ensemble cast of actor-musicians are The Comedy of Errors’ Zoe Lambert, The House with Chicken Legs’ David Fallon, Peace Oseyenum (who recently made her feature film debut in Ogodinife Okpue’s award-winning A Song from Darkness and played the lead role in the Cockpit Theatre’s all-female production of Othello), Tosca and Don Carlo’s Charlie Venables, actor and puppeteer Katie Tranter, and Aron De Casmaker (who has toured internationally with companies including Cirque du Soleil).
Although the team are reluctant to give too much away, Jake reveals that audiences can look forward to a Christmas Ball that everyone is invited to – and an epic snowball fight! ‘It reminds us that Christmas is a time to come together,’ Jake says. He and his fellow co-director Katy Weir work visually and physically, and Jake believes they both have a good understanding of family and those who are young at heart. ‘We care about creating moments of joy and fun, with lots of movement, songs and comedy,’ he explains. ‘This adaptation is also very cheeky and playful, with plenty for adults to enjoy.’
When Katy was at school she would make the 120-mile round trip from Carlisle to watch Northern Stage’s Christmas show with her parents every year. ‘It was part of our tradition,’ she says. ‘Now, with young children of my own I couldn’t be more giddy to have the opportunity to bring the magic to other families in such a wonderful space.
‘Christmas always seems to be the time of year when people come together and our Cinderella is about love, family, community and kindness. This feels important in the current climate: everyday stories with a big dollop of Christmas and a sprinkle of magic.’
Your favourite Christmas character?
Jake: The Grinch.
Katy: The Snowman.
What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?
Jake: My dog Buddy who I got in my early 20s and has been the best sidekick.
Katy: Being with family.
Your favourite Christmas tradition?
Jake: Being at home with loved ones and family. Boxing Day walks on the beach with my dogs.
Katy: The theatre on Christmas Eve and being with family on Christmas Day.
How will you be celebrating Christmas this year?
Jake: I’ll be celebrating this year in Suffolk where I recently relocated to, and spending it with my partner and my two dogs. This year we’re going out for a Christmas dinner which I’ve never done before!
Katy: I’ll be in Carlisle with my family.
Yorkshire puds on Christmas dinner. Yes or no?
Jake: Is that even a question?! YES.
Katy: No, not in my neck of the woods!