Cinderella: A tale of love at first sight, the chaos of societal expectations and the grandeur of romanticized patriarchy in the form of a happily ever after. While William Dunleavy’s direction offered each of these traditional aspects, there is much more to be said about the classic fairy tale told from a contemporary perspective. Beyond the actual premise of the performance in which many are familiar, fourth year student director Dunleavy transcends the archaic nature of Charles Perrault’s Cinderella into a piece grounded in reality.
What once began as a tale told to children of the classic notions of the beautiful woman finding her true love above all odds has since become a political critique of those who hold authority and those that attempt to distance themselves from it. Rather than present the musical in its traditional form, the director made a point to acquaint the characters within the production to modern representations. The Emperor, played by Philippos Ioannou, can be most accurately associated with none other than the political blockhead running the Free World.
“O’Sullivan’s character defies all the expectations of what a princess should be; often resorting to profanity to accurately disclose her feelings to the audience.”
This is most closely realised when Ioannou’ character says those infamous words, “Fake News” when addressing his Chief Advisor. Cinderella, played by Laine O’Sullivan, is depicted as a young, single and oftentimes awkward young lady on the cusp of finding herself despite the oppressive nature of her arbitrary relatives. O’Sullivan’s character defies all the expectations of what a princess should be; often resorting to profanity to accurately disclose her feelings to the audience.
When considering costume design within the piece, one notices the juxtaposition between the characters with snazzy attire versus those who appear to be Arts Block students. The distinction between fashions, whether intentional or accidental, portrayed a great deal in regards to relatability. The Step-Mother, played by Jemima Rose, looked as if she had just stepped out of Brown Thomas with the attitude to match.
The presence of contemporary wear provided a layer to the characters that may not have been as easily identified. The idea of the step-mother dressing in modern apparel relays to the audience that her character is hardly archaic but rather a modish example of a woman obsessed with social class, beauty and material items.
“Throughout the performance, Timmothy, (played by Hannah Cadden) the assistant in Cinderella’s home, seldom speaks but simultaneously manages to win the hearts of the audience members with his facial expressions, inflections and body language”
Dunleavy’s most substantial direction is one taken towards the “less is more” movement. Throughout the performance, Timmothy, (played by Hannah Cadden) the assistant in Cinderella’s home, seldom speaks but simultaneously manages to win the hearts of the audience members with his facial expressions, inflections and body language.
Similarly, the right-hand man of the Emperor, played by Cian Malin, appears to be characterized as a gay man without ever explicitly stating that he is. One exception to the “less is more” rule is the role of the fairy godmother, played by Colleen Womack. In the play, Womack does the most, and exceeds in creating an over-the-top character who manages to even steal the show from the storyteller.
Nearing the final moments of the DU Player’s fresher’s production, the cast breaks out into utter chaos, followed by a happily ever after but not the way you thought it would go. The Prince, played by Josh Hurley, asks for Cinderella’s hand in marriage, and while she turns the marriage proposal down, she agrees to furthering their relationship, saying “you can eat me out, or um rather take me out”. While the play is not traditional in practice, its contemporary approach leaves its audience bursting with laughter and wanting more.