ChildrensFamilyMusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Not So Ugly Sisters – Leeds Playhouse

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Writer/Director: Elvi Piper

Wrongsemble is an enterprising and imaginative Leeds-based company specialising in children’s theatre with a particular bent for clever and entertaining deconstructions of some of our favourite myths, mostly fairy tales, but once, memorably, the early days of William Shakespeare. The talented small casts change, but the core team of Elvi Piper as writer and director and Antony Jones as designer remains.

The Not So Ugly Sisters has finished a short run at Leeds Playhouse, co-producers with Red Ladder and Wrongsemble. No other dates are mentioned on the website, but surely, as things normalise, it will take to the road.

As the title suggests, it’s a re-telling of the Cinderella story from the point of view of her sisters. A very jolly and lively version with lots of energetic dancing and funny, sympathetic characters, it’s aimed firmly at the kids while having plenty for the adults, too. The satire on the media and the fake news culture is not heavy, but it is there, and Piper even manages a good gag on the subject of Chekhov’s Three Sisters – well received at Leeds!

The scene is a hairdresser’s and at the beginning one of the proprietors, Dolly (Daisy Ann Fletcher) embarks on a romantic rhyming version of the Cinderella story, all sentimental delivery and expansive gesture, while her sister, Barb (Lucy Rafton), lives up to her name with a sardonic down-to-earth commentary, still in rhyme. That’s fun, but it’s only the start of things. It turns out that this is the wedding day of Cinderella and the Prince (all over the TV channels) and everyone is boycotting their salon because of the media branding them as pantomime villains. Eventually they act out the true story, Cinderella anything but put upon and the family much more normal than the media would have it. There is a happy ending, but not the usual one, and the triumphant anthem U-G-L-Y! makes the case for social inclusion.

The songs by Bay Bryan and Claire Marie Seddon are excellent, from soul to knockabout fun, with even a nod in the direction of Stephen Sondheim. And Fletcher and Rafton are ideally matched, full of energy, dancing with synchronised silliness, putting over songs with power or a sense of mischief, working together with a slick informality that suggests improvisation, but is in fact meticulously rehearsed.

Reviewed at Leeds Playhouse June 5th 2021

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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