Theatre review: Cinderella at Bolton Octagon

Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon
Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon

It’s nearly Christmas so time for fairy tale offerings from theatres across the land - many fairly predictable and some just a little bit different.

This includes Bolton Octagon where they have re-thought and re-imagined the classic tale of Cinderella, from the perspective of the rats scuttling in the floorboards.

Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon

Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon

This is not as bonkers as it sounds in this moralistic tale.

The downtrodden vermin find an unlikely soulmate in the downtrodden Cinders, reduced to scrubbing floors and wearing rags, the lowest in the food chain.

They are her only friends.

Written by Mike Kenny and directed by Ben Occhipinti with music by Rob Hiley, what is remarkable about this quirky, immersive, interpretation of a fairy story in the Octagon’s ‘in the round’ theatre is the cast.

Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon

Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon

Just six-strong, they switch from ratty character to traditional character with a twitch of the whiskers, from actor to singer to musician to set-mover almost seamlessly.

I say almost because actually watching them transform is part of the fun as they alter costumes and lug around huge instruments including a piano, a giant drum set, tubular bells and an electronic double bass.

There is no backstage here as actors pop up on staircases, sing from behind you and even ask members of the audience for help with props.

Meanwhile, Lucy Faint as the eponymous character is intriguing and likeable in her alternative physical representation of a girl lost without her mother, reduced to slaving for her evil stepmother, and trying to embrace the reality she is ‘not nothing’.

Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon

Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon

But stealing the show, with the best laughs and best physical theatre, is undoubtedly the ‘ugly sisters’ - Thatun and Thisun - played by Alicia McKenzie and Anne O’Riordan who bounce off each other perfectly.

Their attempts at dance have the audience in stitches. Anne in particular draws the eye, even when ‘eating the seating’ as rat ‘Teeth’ and playing the drums.

One child in particular was giggling uncontrollably in the seats behind me at their irrepressible clowning.

What is fascinating about the production is the unlikeliness of the casting, they are multi-talented but there has been no pandering to the Disney princess school of fairy tale.

In this production of Cinderella, everyone can have a happy ending, even the rats.

Cinderella is playing at Bolton Octagon until January 14.