Cumbernauld Theatre

Mary Brennan

five stars

In 2006, when director Ed Robson took on the challenges of Cumbernauld Theatre’s failing finances and uncertain future, he gave audiences of all ages a Christmas show that made a very old fairy-tale freshly magical and even nail-bitingly thrilling again. That production of Cinderella is now on-stage once more, a poignantly fitting conclusion to the venue’s own career: the distinctively quaint wee theatre is closing and the operation will move, in the New Year, to an arts centre alongside the new Cumbernauld Academy.

Real change! Just like in Cinderella’s own life. Here she is, on the eve of her marriage to the Prince, radiantly happy - and still victimised by her bullying stepmother (Esme Bailey), aka the menacing witch Mandragora. In the blink of a spell, Danielle Glover’s sweet Cinderella is asleep in the Enchanted Forest, lost and alone, her memory a spell-bound blank. Will she ever get home again? And in time for her wedding?

Robson’s story-telling flair has the kindness of strangers at its heart here. The forest folk – led by a bumbling old wizard (Tim Licata) and his eager young apprentice (Dylan Blore) – try to jog her memory by re-enacting what they know of her story... Two large hampers are hauled onto the otherwise bare stage and, across some very deft quick changes of costume and character – with Blore and the bearded Nicky Elliott mincing and primping hilariously as the panto-ludicrous Ugly Sisters – they succeed. Hurrah! However the Woodsman (Elliott) is meanly suspicious of the needy ‘outsider’ suddenly in their midst and his hostility plays into Mandragora’s vindictive hands. We, the audience, are of course a force to be reckoned with and our enthusiastic participation saves the day. Robson’s script, with topical updates, remains utterly absorbing, and this current cast serve its sharp wit, daft comedy and tensions with tremendous energy and charm. Here’s hoping this theatre - like Cinderella – has a ‘happy ever after’ future in store.