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Brixton House welcomes audiences to a reimagined Cinderella tale with a local twist by Danusia Samal!
We meet Sindi-Ella (Yanexi Enriquez) a teenager who resides above a greengrocers her late father owned. Sindi is determined to keep the family business afloat – so determined she even grows various vegetables, fruit and plants in her room! Living with her bougie step-mum and step-sister, Sindi finds solace in conversations with her reliable ‘Delphy’ (Delphinium) plant and wonders how she can keep the business running amidst all the constant changes happening in Brixton…
One of those changes happens to be Charmz; a popular influencer and CEO of Flip Flop, a social media platform for teens, who aspires to buy out all local shops on Brixton Lane and build a ‘mega mall’. When Sindi meets Charmz, the pair have an undeniable connection and he invites her to his party…which happens to be on the same day as her greengrocers ‘rebrand’ event. With turmoil unfolding at home, can Sindi make the party? Perhaps her faithful houseplants can assist…
Set against a backdrop of lively beats and directed by Ola Ince, this Cinderella retelling is a unique adaption, that explores strong themes such as gentrification, family dynamics and loss. As a South Londoner, I enjoyed the authentic representation of Brixton during this production.
Amelia Jane Hankin’s set design impresses, with eye-catching elements that were split across two levels. It was a great depiction of a green grocers as well the Brixton Lane logo which was suspended above. Anna Watson’s lighting worked wonderfully to enhance that transformative ‘Cinderella’ moment towards the end of Act 1. It did feel quite magical, and I had hoped for more moments like this throughout.
Duramaney Kamara’s music shines throughout, with a brilliant mix of catchy garage-inspired songs, along with rap, pop, and reggae. Enriquez had such star quality; they delivered a strong performance and showed off beautiful vocals. Alex Thomas-Smith’s was captivating as Charmz, from the moment they entered the stage. They were quite literally shining, with a ring light propped behind them during all the ‘Flip Flop’ announcements. Like their characters, Enriquez and Thomas Smith showcased sweet, authentic chemistry, and I loved their songs (and choreography!) together.
Ray Emmett Brown played Delphy, the charismatic delphinium plant who also happened to be Sindi’s father. They provided us with laughter and I especially liked how he balanced the humorous moments with sensitive scenes later in the show. The cast is completed with Julene Robinson, who multi roles as Sindi’s step mum and a school friend. Step sister, Tia is played by Jesse Bateson who delivers great comedy as the influencer longing for West London – with a running joke that is her constantly insulting South London (ouch!).
While the cast maintained high spirits, I couldn’t help but feel the pacing was slower than expected, and some jokes fell flat. The show deviates from a traditional pantomime to the point where I wouldn’t quite define this as a panto. I wondered how the show would be received by younger audience members as I felt there was too much going on with the storyline and it became confusing. I felt the ‘fun’ factor fizzled out in Act 2. As I mentioned earlier, it would have been nice to have more lively, magical moments, something I associate with the original Cinderella. On the day I saw the show, there wasn’t much audience participation, and even when prompted, not many of the audience knew how to respond…
Despite this, I applaud this production for having a different take on Cinderella, with the inclusion of resonating themes such as navigating loss, the impact of gentrification and family dynamics. Samal’s writing sensitively explores all of this. With poignant scenes between the characters, fun, catchy selection of songs and an empowering ending, allowing for a happily ever after.
Cinderella is playing at Brixton House until 31st December 2023.