Cinderella // Javeenbah Theatre

Review by Bradley Chapman

Javeenbah’s most recent production is a quirky little show.

The bizarrely titled Cinderella centres on the experience of Ashley, an awkward thirty-something trying her best to navigate just one night in the modern dating scene. Over the course of the evening, she meets the equally anxious Ash and together they build each other up in ways they may not have expected. 

If that synopsis sounds familiar, it should. The fundamental premise is not ground-breaking. From there, however, the show does take some twists and turns that make the experience feel fresh – though to discuss them here would ruin the experience somewhat. It’s really best to go in not knowing what to expect. 

Matthew Whittet is a decent playwright. His concept is stronger than his dialogue which is a little clunky at times. Happily though, the team behind this particular production are able to give the script the lift it requires to make it engaging and relevant; the main object of all theatre is of course the performance, not the text.  Director Jocelyn Moore-Carter doesn’t treat her audience like they are idiots. She gives just what it needed to suggest how they should interpret the work, but doesn’t hold their hands. The result is a story enhanced by interesting, stylised movement, clever and nuanced hints and foreshadowing before certain reveals, and the best production design of any Javeenbah show in recent memory. 

The set is a real highlight in this show. It maintains a child-like storybook aesthetic throughout the frequent scene-shifts that transform the space, reminding us of what can be accomplished in a black box theatre that is willing to forego the tired, outdated cliché of the box set. Set designer Corrinne Meunier certainly has an eye for details, making the complex mechanics look fluid and easy. 

This production involves a rotating cast, with three actors sharing each role. Audiences are encouraged to see the show more than once (a discount offered for additional viewings) to see the changes in dynamics between the pairs. I have to admit, my initial thought was that no one would be interested in doing that, but after seeing how much the portrayals of Ash and Ashley were infused with the energies and personalities of the cast, I came away a convert to this idea. I saw Carol Lange and Liam Mathers in the roles. Lange presented a relatable Ashley, but someone who had been burnt by the world in a sizable way. Mathers’ Ash was spirited yet timid, perfectly in step with Lange’s idiosyncratic performance. Taylor Holmes with David Anderson and Cass Rockley with Megan Frener make up the other two pairings. 

Now… I’ve never done this before in a critique of a piece of theatre, but I feel compelled to address the awkward discourse surrounding this production. I’ve seen several mentions of it online that refer to it as experimental theatre. It is not experimental theatre. 

Labelling this completely accessible show with that loaded moniker is not doing this production any favours. It will only deter those unwilling to “experiment” and disappoint the rare lone audience member expecting to see work that pushes theatrical boundaries. 

This is simply, heaven forbid, a solid piece of theatre that invites the audience to interpret it rather than smacking them over the head with meaning or showmanship. It has an air of Tennessee Williams thematically and stylistically – the lone everyman(woman) trying to decipher the role she plays within her own relationships… aided by fleeting hints of something supernatural. It makes you think, sure, but isn’t that what theatre is supposed to do? Wouldn’t we prefer that, as a theatre-going public? God help us if the answer is no. 

That’s not to say Cinderella isn’t a risky choice for Javeenbah. A two-hander (though extra hands have been added here) is always a tough sell for any theatre, and the playwright has done no favours by picking this title. But Javeenbah has a reputation for privileging art over profit and the artistry of this show is something audiences should be hungry for. 

Cinderella is closing this weekend and tickets are still available here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s