A lesson in how to dance through life

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Cinderella's Sisters

Catherine Wheels Theatre Company

touring to Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow, Dumfries and Galloway, Dunfermline, Falkirk, Dundee, Peebles and Invergordon until June 15

age range: 8-plus

tel 0131 653 4266


Put out of mind all those lunchtimes long-ago in the school gym, plodding through the quickstep and the foxtrot with a partner you avoided for the rest of the week. That is all light years away from the glitz and glamour of the new Catherine Wheels Theatre Company production, Cinderella's Sisters.

Forget, too, the story about the slipper. The real put-down for the really quite attractive sisters was when stepsister Sophie (aka Cinderella) won the ballroom dancing competition.

The story of blisters, ball gowns and sibling rivalry begins back in sisters Penny and Pam's childhood, on the day their runaway father deserts the family home. Cue the ambitious and manipulative mother to turn all her attention to her two daughters and bully them into becoming queens of the ballroom. She is a dragon, a monster with a belief in the work ethic, but despite her cruelty, the two girls love to dance.

And dance they do, as they tell their story. Their dresses sweep and twirl, the mirror balls scatter snowflakes of light across the silver streamer curtains as the sophisticated foxtrot, the bizarrely dramatic tango, the sexy cha cha cha and the whirling paso doble, all find their place in the story, and all are danced with joyful flair as the sisters uncover the often painful secrets of their extraordinary upbringing.

Dance is what this play is really about. Writer Mike Kenny has created choreographed dialogue, light and graceful, poised and balanced, deft and rapid. Gill Robertson, who founded the company and directs this production, catches every nuance of the text and, no doubt borrowing a little of that work ethic from the dragon mother, has guided her actresses to skin-tight performances.

Michelle Gallagher (Pam) and Helen Devon (Penny) are the Astaire and Rogers of the piece and share the dialogue with the gusto and pinpoint accuracy of a veteran double act who have been 20 years in vaudeville.

Gallagher is strong on the pathos, as when the mother makes her practise dancing and smiling in shoes that are too small for her.

In a production that speaks directly to the audience, Devon is in her element, with her own hotline to the stalls. She rules like a stand-up comedienne with a repertoire of smiles and glances as articulate as words.

Underneath all the sequins are lessons in life, as in all good children's theatre. Family relationships are there, certainly, but also this business of competing, winning and losing, of working hard for something you want and of deciding what really matters.

Most of all, the sisters learn that their negative emotions of hatred, anger and jealousy towards Sophie have harmed them and were misplaced.

This was not why the company were treated to two curtain calls, however, it was just the sheer fleet-footed fun of it all.

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