Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Cinder-ella retold through storytelling, puppetry, silliness and sign language.
It is a tremendous challenge to reinvent a story as classic and beloved as Cinderella so I was a bit trepidatious about yet another theatrical interpretation gracing the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe. Within seconds of entering the theatre my fears were assuaged as I saw the kind-looking gentleman standing on stage with ironing board and baby pram, gleefully interacting with the audience in English and Sign Language.
I will confess as an American at the Fringe, I don’t know Kinny Gardner from the BBC which gives me the distinct advantage of experiencing his gentle, witty storytelling with childlike naivety. The uncomplicated set, devoid of color (at first but that’s all I’ll say) suggests a familiar scene to any parent while hearkening to a time long past, yet with a contemporary spin, seeing a man in charge of the baby, and the understated nature of Mr. Gardner took this reviewer back to her school days when a bright red jumper and pair of old oxfords were a daytime staple watching Mr. Rogers, everyone’s favorite kindly neighbor, welcome us into his neighborhood, sandwiched somewhere between the Muppets and the five o’clock news.
There are two aspects of this production which truly stand out, the first being the sense of discovery. Utilizing simple sets and props derived from the ordinary, everyday lives of parents, prams and purses, linens and wash lines, brooms and boots, Mr. Gardner creates and colors the world in which Cinder-ella exists while telling the story in two languages. Which brings me to the second stand out, the sense of inclusion. Yes, this is a story told in sign language as well as spoken word, but what makes it so stand out, is the casual ease with which the interpretation is handled, so beautifully and fully integrated that it simply becomes another element of the storytelling. So often shows which are designed to be inclusive can also have the unfortunate consequence of singling out the very community they mean to serve. Kudos to Krazy Kat Theatre for using theatre as a tool for creating a more inclusive community with such integrity and elegance.
Though the elements of puppetry and clowning are a little stilted, perhaps a bit more fluid had they been in the hands of a more agile actor, Kinny’s charm and sparkling asides, breaking of the fourth wall to give little tongue in cheek moments of brevity aimed straight at the adults, whose clenched teeth at the thought of sitting through yet another rendition of Cinderella, clearly relaxed at this uninhibited, silly, twinkling eyed storyteller. Cinder-ella offers a lot to recommend it, not the least of which is Kinny Gardner, a dynamic, engaging and imminently charming storyteller who offers laughter, imagination and just a little bit of magic!