Cindermouse. Little Angel Theatre
Traditionally, the mice in Cinderella are turned into horses by the Fairy Godmother. It’s a fairly important, but fleeting, role – they lead the carriage that takes Cinders to the all-important ball. In Cindermouse, however, mice are centre-stage. The production invites us to Mousetown (after a quick check for cats who are obviously not welcome), to watch a retelling of the classic fairytale using only rehearsed rodents.
Karen Prell’s adaptation makes some bold changes to the classic Cinderella story, adding some new bits, taking away others. Cindermouse’s father is alive and well, and a struggling clockmaker who can’t afford the right parts for his clocks. The horrible stepmother is just a mean lady next door with two lazy daughters, so Cindermouse helps with the cleaning sometimes. There’s still a fairy godmother, but there’s no transformation of a pumpkin into a carriage or a dog into a driver. The ball is a big birthday party, and this is a successful deviation from the well-known tale. A range of performers, like a mouse on stilts or another balancing a ball on his nose, are a playful touch. Here, and throughout Cindermouse, much of the comedy comes from exploring the tricks puppets can do.
In many ways, these changes contribute to a modernised version of events with an arguably more feminist bent. Cindermouse isn’t bothered about meeting the prince at the ball; she’s only going to the party to make sure the prince’s birthday present, a clock made by her dad, works properly. At midnight, the clock only strikes 11 because of its dodgy parts. It is up to Cindermouse to decide whether to make it chime once more (with a quick kick or bash) or not, choosing between helping her father or staying with the prince; family comes first and she dashes off. Cindermouse is never being rescued by the prince; whilst she is as helpful and kind and good at cleaning as ever, she is not a pushover and makes her own decisions. An added bonus is that her happy ending encourages the ugly sisters to try housework.
Whilst Cindermouse is commendable for it’s updated story, it’s never quite clear why it is being told through mice. Except for the opening search for Larry the theatre cat and the setting of Mousetown, the script could be interchangeable with other animals or even humans. As the leading species in this production, more could have been made of these miniature mammals; rodent-based humour perhaps. It does allow for cute puppets though.
The cast, Roger Lade and Andrea Sadler, work hard as they animate and voice a large cast. Whilst both are commanding in character, it’s a really nice, interesting contrast when they step front of stage as themselves. All the buoyancy and life of the piece seems to come directly from the puppets, not the people, which feels like great puppetry.
Cindermouse is a sweet alternative to a traditional pantomime; you can get ready to shout ‘He’s behind you!’’ and argue “Oh no it doesn’t”. Audiences will be delighted when the prince comes out into the auditorium, checking whether the glass slipper fits any tiny feet. The production isn’t revolutionary, but it is guaranteed to have something for all the family.
Flossie Waite
Follow Flossie on Twitter @ctheatrereviews and at her website