Review written by Flossie Waite
A Krazy Kat Theatre Company Production

Half Moon Theatre
For ages 3 – 8
National tour 9th-22nd February 2015

At this time of year, Cinderella is everywhere, and everyone is trying to do it differently. This one-man version blends classic storytelling with puppetry, music and magic, adding a meta-theatrical twist and exceptional interaction.

Cinder-Ella is full of surprises and clever ideas, controlled and revealed by the masterful Kinny Gardner who is clearly an old hand. The grey, funereal set is gradually coloured by the story, and puppets appear from boots, bags and trousers. It’s all delivered with a nod-and-a-wink style à la traditional panto, and similarly Gardner gives a running commentary of the show: “I can’t use a pumpkin because of health and safety so a balloon will act as a pumpkin. It’s all getting very arty up here!’ Cinder-Ella is definitely a family show that caters to all ages, and doesn’t fall into the panto trap of sliding into jokes for adults that baffle younger audience members – there’s lots here for everyone.

Gardner fully integrates signing into the show, and it feels very natural, the movements and facial expressions adding to the storytelling. What sets Cinder-Ella apart is the audience interaction: Gardner teaches some key pieces of British Sign Language so everyone can join in with the story, producing lovely moments such as the whole room reminding Cinder-Ella to be home by midnight.

There are a few occasions when the pace is slow, moments of silent action that go on too long. The puppets are used to illustrate the story rather than tell it; as Gardner only has so many hands, there’s quite a bit of propping them against walls or attaching them to poles, and he happily steps in to help when the puppets are “too short”.

Cinder-Ella is refreshing precisely because of its engagement with styles and techniques of the past, which can be overlooked in the constant quest for innovation. It’s as familiar as an old children’s television show – a cross between Sooty and Jackanory – but not outdated.

Follow Children’s Theatre Reviews @ctheatrereviews

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