Dec 10 2017 | By More

★★★★☆   Gorgeous

Traverse Theatre: Thurs 7 – Sun 24 Dec 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

Shona Reppe’s puppet version of Cinderella at the Traverse until Christmas Eve is a thing of airy, subtle wonder.

The familiar fairy story is told with grace, space and imagination through a combination of elegant puppetry and a kitchen counter with hidden depths.

Cinderella with Rick Conte. Pic Mihaela Bodlovic

In this production, puppeteer Rick Conte has taken over from Reppe herself. He not only has a beautifully articulate and delicate touch with the various items used but adapts seamlessly to the more storytelling elements of the production.

Cinderella herself is a more traditional puppet, whose vocal outbursts are largely confined to sneezes and snorts, but is nevertheless extremely expressive.

Her stepsisters, meanwhile, are represented by a pair of coloured gloves. Much more voluble, they add greatly to the fun of the story. Other characters are represented, as is much of the narrative, largely by hints and clever sound design, with the young audience’s imaginations left to fill in the gaps.

The apparently simple set proves to be a treasure trove of drawers and hatches. Jeopardy is achieved by objects as commonplace as a standard lamp. Reppe, and original co-director Gill Robertson and co-creator Ian Cameron, have created a situation which breathes exquisite life into everyday situations and the most familiar of stories.

challenging feat

Drawing in a demanding audience of youngsters so completely is a challenging feat, and Reppe knows just how far to go. The sisters’ attempts to fit into the glass slipper come directly from earlier and more gruesome sources for the story, but are pitched just right, while Cinderella’s triumph is represented less as a chance for redemption and more as the blowing of a raspberry.

Rick Conte uncovers the Ugly Sisters. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

While this is undoubtedly a tremendously realised piece of theatrical magic that is heartily recommended to both the young and to the young at heart, there are a couple of things about it that do not succeed unreservedly.

While last year’s Black Beauty, co-created by Reppe, was expansive enough to fill the space of Traverse One completely, this earlier piece is on a much smaller scale. Traverse Two is about as large a room as you would imagine it being successful in. Even so, there is the odd moment when the tiny details seem in danger of getting swamped.

On occasion Conte is striving just a little too hard for effect. The mentions of Nigel the Uber driver come just too frequently, for example, and the more carnival-barker elements of the persona he adopts clash with the delicacy of the rest.

However, the overall effect is entirely positive. This is a lovely piece of Christmas theatre, guaranteed to make anyone with an open heart feel better about the world.

Running time 50 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Thursday 7 – Sunday 24 December 2017
Thurs-Sun only.
Thurs: 1.30pm.
Fri: 10.30am & 6.30pm.
Sat: 2pm & 6.30pm.
Sun: 12 noon, 2pm.
Tickets and details at:

Cinderella with her invite tot he Ball. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic


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