EFR - Reviews of Cinderella Lives!

Cinderella Lives!

Sat 3rd – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Ben Williams

at 03:53 on 17th Aug 2013

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A woman is asleep on a chair centre-stage dressed in a vest and boxer shorts. Throughout the play she dresses in a suit and tie, an impossibly short dress with glittery high heels, and just about everything in between. Through all of this, she presents the audience with a simple story about a woman who battles with her own self-image in terms of marriage, working-life, and the media.

Whilst this may sound like a clichéd piece of feminist theatre, Aisling Kiely is utterly compelling as the star of this one-woman feminist burlesque. Her command of comedy and emotional levels adds a really genuine nature to her characters, making their messages incredibly relatable and effective. Yet this was cleverly balanced with moments of light relief, singing Les Miserables numbers into a hoover or ‘improvising’ her own lyrics to Dolly Parton’s 9-5, added a welcome humorous edge and a burlesque feel to an otherwise very powerful piece.

The most effective component in this show was the sheer intelligence of its construction. Unlike many shows which subject their audience to an hour of preaching on the topic of their choice, she presents the arguments fairly across a variety of mediums, so that the audience member can decide for themselves exactly where they stand. As well as the discussion of the issues in the story, the audience experiences the effect of these issues for themselves in the gradual change in music, movement pieces and, most notably, costume.

I found that, as a male audience member, this last factor was particularly powerful. Here I saw a young woman completely transformed, from an androgynous figure to a conventionally beautiful woman, all with the shift in costume and make-up. At the same time, this figure was clarifying the social and historical developments and preconceptions which make me think the way that I do and why the change was so profound.

The show’s only significant flaw was with its pacing, as it often felt as though it lacked the punch that it needed to make the effect even greater. Moments in the dialogue between characters, both of which were played by Keily of course, felt a little laboured, as entire conversations were almost recited, slowing the momentum.

This impressive piece of theatre ultimately makes you reflect on ‘the difference between what we have been told we want and what we really want’, the effect of which can be rather harrowing. But it is Keily’s performance, which really brings the show to life in an exciting and refreshing manner.

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Frank Lawton

at 05:03 on 17th Aug 2013

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0disagrees

Aisling Kiely’s refreshingly questioning script, her Feminist burlesque dances (yes, such things exist), and her multi-personality acting performances make this a little gem of a show. Unlike many shows described as having a 'message', the beauty of this script is its nuanced thought. Kiely hasn’t decided she has 'the answer' and will proceed to ram it down our throats, but instead accepts she doesn’t have an exclusive grasp on 'the truth', that there may not even be 'an answer' after all.

This show takes a provocative look at many issues facing contemporary Feminism: the legacy of the 'emancipation' of the pill, the sexual revolution, and marriage come under the spotlight. What is so refreshing, though, is that the flip-side of any point or idea is given strong voice too - the pill is both liberation and oppression, female suffrage a result of idealism and of cynical market capitalism, marriage a societal power bond and a meeting of minds. This play is a searing jolt not only to people who think ‘they have everything figured out’, but to anybody too staid to question their way of living and the expectations both society and they themselves impose.

The script leans from funny to painfully poignant, all the while maintaining a keen intelligence. The ‘Feminist burlesque’ dances are burlesque in reverse, with clothes being added as the dance progresses, and are both funny, strangely erotic, and a smart subversion of genre. Subversion of expectation is a keen arrow in Kiely’s quiver; the show opens with what first appears to be a thin man slouched in a chair, regaled in vest and male boxers, until it dawns that this is, in fact, a woman.

As the show moves, changes to her outfit and manner transform what first appeared as a boy into a tom-boy, and then quickly a woman. Kiely enacts on this small scale the workings of societal expectation, manipulating our perceptions expertly. The club scene on the other hand is devastatingly touching, grabbing hold of that well-known cocktail of drunken regret - nostalgia and crisis. Her movements across the stage are effortless and graceful, the movements of an excellent dancer even (especially) in the enactment of moments of emotional pain.

The dialogue between Kiely’s primary character, Eve, and her flatmate Alice are again refreshingly well-thought through. Alice takes a supposedly 'non-feminist' attitude (which, in fact, turns out to be another, parallel version of feminist thought) and uses it to expose Eve’s own flaws rather than just provide a simple foil to Eve’s more traditionally Feminist ideas. Despite the odd heavy handed use of meta-theatre, this play remains well worth a watch. Answers aren’t here, but, far more importantly, the questions are.

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