Cinderella (Javeenbah Theatre Company)
March 10 – 25
Generally speaking, a two-hander relies on the interaction of its leads and their respective abilities to successfully move the narrative along. In Javeenbah Theatre’s production of Matthew Whittet’s “Cinderella”, Taylor Holmes and Liam Mathers achieve exactly this.
The performers are two in a season that features three rotating companies (which also include Cass Rockley, Megan Frener, Carole Lange and David Anderson). As advertising for the show promises… “This Cinderella isn’t about princes and princesses. It’s about a single woman in her early 40s trying to go on a date, and a single guy who has an unreasonable fear of not being heard over loud music in bars.” And so we see the story of Ash and Ashley’s burgeoning relationship over the course of an evening, affectionately conveyed by Holmes and Mathers.
Holmes is an engaging storyteller in share of her character’s entertaining anecdotes as part of what soon ends up emerging as a date. And Mathers captures the nervous energy of his character’s bumbles, conveying him as a genuinely likeable guy in whose story we become equally invested. The actors certainly work well, both together and independently. In particular, Holmes’s realisation of her character is complete down to nuanced movements and glances to hint as to a perhaps underlying sadness. This means that the Magic Realism that classifies the work, appears, not so much as an integral component, but as a superfluous distraction from a good story. One scene with puppetry of bird fits into the narrative of a recalled story, but the interpretive dance sort of movements from not just the two leads, but sometimes appearance of others on stage, only serves to detract from our absorption into a story whose emotional themes are already being accurately conveyed without the need for such emphasise.
Experimental as it may be, however, this “Cinderella” is still a work of much potential in its concept as we follow the pair’s relationship blossom over an evening, with little nods to the original story through a lost shoe and slowly-creeping-forward clock, for example. The timing of the show’s season starting during the week of International Women’s Day represents a particularly apt opportunity for some quality subversion of the original fairy tale’s traditional saviour plot through a feminist lens. While there is foreshadowing of an impending plot change of direction, without real establishment of motivation, this perhaps alienates rather than endears the conclusion of what is an otherwise quite lovely story.
“This is where the magic begins,” a staging statement tells the audience as Act One opens. In many ways this is true beyond even its particular genre, as, thanks to Jocelyn Moore-Carter’s direction we easily become enveloped in the cocoon of a catchy (but also aptly-chosen) Hall and Oats soundtrack and well-paced story. Indeed, the engagement created makes experience of this retold story of Cindy and her fella a quite lovely way to spend a Gold Coast evening.