Review: Cinderella in Muddy York

by Lynn on December 29, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. Conceived, written (in part), designed and performed by David and Ann Powell. Directed by Sue Miner. At Theatre Passe Muraille until January 5.

Produced by Puppetmongers.

I can’t think of a better way to end a year of theatre going than to see a Puppetmongers production, and in this case it’s Cinderella in Muddy York.

Ann and David Powell, the dynamic brother and sister duo behind Puppetmongers, have taken the Cinderella story and given it a decidedly Canadian twist. They have set it in Muddy York in 1864, just before the place had its name changed to Toronto. Ella is a sweet, resourceful young woman who was born and raised in Muddy York. She takes care of the house for her widowed father. Her father has sent for an old acquaintance from England to come to the ‘colonies’ and be his wife. She arrives with her two spoiled brat daughters. Trouble begins immediately when they expect Ella to do everything for them. One of the brats dubs Ella, ‘cinderella’ because of the soot and dirt she had to clean up.

We know the rest. There is a three day ball hosted by the Lieutenant Governor to commemorate the new name of Toronto and everybody is invited. The brats are particularly excited because the Lieutenant Governor has a bachelor son.

Cinderella meets the prince and they hit it off immediately. She makes sure she leaves the ball for the first two nights before midnight, but on the third night, she’s having so much fun, she forgets until it’s too late. She rushes off leaving one of her glass slippers behind. We know the rest.

The story is told by handheld puppets with the Ann and David Powell visible to us. The Powells wear costumes appropriate for the times. Ann is the more serious of the two. She imbues a gentleness to Ella and a quiet whininess to the spoiled brat daughters of the equally snotty step-mother. David Powell is the more impish of the two. He is the one more likely to add a bit of whimsy or commentary off-handedly as he makes an exit.

The facial expressions of the puppets is masterful. Frowning and grimacing for the step-mother and her brat daughters; wide-eyed and eager for Cinderella; round-faced and charming for Princely Charming. And while we do see the two manipulating the puppets, after a while they are not visible at all because we are focusing on the lively puppets. The set is efficient and ingenious. There is a lovely sense of economy to the whole enterprise.

Seeing Cinderella in Muddy York is a lovely way of spending some quality time in the theatre with your kids, or even by yourself. And after the bows Ann and David Powell always come back on stage to answer any questions a young or older member of the audience wants to know about the puppets etc.

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