Cinderella, Brixton House Theatre – ★★★★☆
It would be hard to imagine a glass slipper on Brixton Lane.
It is thus unsurprising that Sindi-Ella neither rides a pumpkin carriage nor finds her Prince Charming.
Instead, in this heart-warming modern twist on the classic, Sindi-Ella finds magic in the people and community of Brixton, and in the face of a problem realises running away to a ball is not the answer.
Set on Brixton Lane, Sindi-Ella (Yanexi Enriquez) tries to rescue her father’s struggling vegetable shop, Ella’s Greengrocers, after his death.
Battling alone with her grief and with only her plant Delphy to talk to, she bumps heads with her boutique-loving stepmother, Steph (Julene Robinson) and south London-hating stepsister, Tia (Jesse Bateson).
Meanwhile Charmz (Alex Thomas-Smith), CEO of social media Flip Flop Inc, is ploughing down her high street to make way for a mega mall.
As green-fingered as her father and in love with her local community, Sindi-Ella is determined to save her shop against the corporation, but she needs a little help.
We see the true magic when Delphy (Ray Emmet Brown) comes to life and her step sister is not as evil as she first thought.
This fun, vibrant and engaging coming-of-age tale was created with Gen Z in mind.
Teenagers Sindi-Ella and Tia both attend Brixton High and definitely come from different cliques.
While Tia is a west London influencer with Jimmy Choo trainers, Sindi-Ella takes her home-grown produce to school as a way to make friends.
Enriquez brought the energy and charisma of a passionate teenager who felt like the whole world was against her, with Bateson’s wrapped up it-girl aura creating the perfect clash.
The fiery performance of the whole cast was aided by the music and choreography, with spoken-word, rap and hip-hop regularly performed like in a TikTok video rather than a Christmas pantomime.
Director Ola Ince elegantly used social media as a way to connect with an audience like I’ve not seen before.
Rather than using screens, which make the online world feel disconnected from the stage, selfie sticks, ring lights and strobes brought the audience within this media realm.
Instead of bashing screen-addicted teens, Ince demonstrated influencer culture while subtly poking fun at those more interested in followers than friends.
Praise is also due to set designer Amelia Jane Hankin as the stage was stunning.
Unlike the recent popularity of minimalism on stage, the set was dressed lavishly.
Green synthetic plants, a disco ball, vegetable carts and road signs made for a versatile space and the audience was always well placed through the story.
The designs took plants to heart as the stage grew upwards rather than outwards, creating a multi-levelled space, an incredible design in a rather awkward and narrow area.
Alongside the joviality of a Christmas show, there was also a deep-rooted message of loss.
While the unwanted displacement of Brixton’s community due to gentrification is the main message, writer Danusia Samal subtly weaves in the theme of family bereavement.
At a time when families are gathering, those missing loved ones feel squashed by festive cheer.
However, this show rightfully gave grief a space to breathe on stage sometimes lost in reality.
The show conveys the importance of communication between friends and family in times of need.
While the narrative was not directly-related to Christmas, Cinderella delivered the glam, magic and message of all festive shows, a must-see for Brixton locals and a hopeful show for those feeling lost this season.
Cinderella, Brixton House Theatre, to December 31
Feature image credit: Alex Brenner