>cinderella dreams by mime unlimited

>reviewed by fong li ling

>date: 6 sep 2002
>time: 2:30pm
>venue: ngee ann auditorium, asian civilisations museum, empress place
>rating: ***

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


It was as if I was six again, sitting down on a carpet and allowing an expressive someone to charm me with her voice and the story she was telling…

Alright, being six is just wishful thinking on my part, I am slightly more than a decade older than that. But the bit about sitting on the carpet listening to a storyteller was real. Two members of the Storytellers' Circle introduced me to 'Tattercoats' and an Irish male Cinderella story. And just when I thought the children were probably enjoying this even more than I was, alas, to my horror, I saw many actually going off into little worlds of their own! - except for the few who (God bless!) had a longer concentration span.

CINDERELLA DREAMS was incapable of actually lulling one to sleep, though, despite its prologue being a voiceover of a mother telling her daughter her favourite bedtime story. In particular, first-time designer Lori Campbell Rose did a superb job with the costumes (the traditional fairytale Cinderella costume, complete with tiara, was especially stunning) and the live percussion was an absolute delight. Yet, to my surprise, again, these were not enough to tame the extremely young audience members in the house. Perhaps the images were, after all, not strong enough to catch the attention of our younger friends. After about half-way through the show, some of them seemed more fascinated with a box of chocolate-coated biscuit sticks while a couple of them were plainly too young to understand what in the world was going on.

>>'You can never make everyone happy, but they tried their best, and it showed'

So it seemed only an older audience was able to truly appreciate the production? Unfortunately, that seemed to be the case. Some children did emerge from the production entertained by the characters' silly antics and comical moves, but it is doubtful that they really did understand the three inter-weaving Cinderella stories, much less the more complex themes being explored. The narrative was, after all, rather vague at the beginning; it took a bit of explanation before my friend understood the role of the crones (played by Shirley Smith, Katherine McLeod and Elizabeth de Roza), and it was only with the entrance of the proprietress and her daughters (Katherine McLeod, Christina Chelliah and Elizabeth de Roza respectively) that the first "traditional" Cinderella (Charlotte Chiew) stood out. From there the story picked up and took off well but some of the actors also later took up multiple roles and a few costume changes were not apparent. This led subsequently to slight problems differentiating which character the actor was playing at a particular time. One thing still mystifies even me, for example: the play ends with three couples, one of whom is Elizabeth de Roza's character and Ben Matthews' character. But which of her two characters is de Roza when she is being paired up with Matthews?

Timing and precision were also not always up to standard. The office workers' movements, for example, were not well-coordinated. The sharpness and systematic manner of office workers that the actors intended to portray were lacking in the performance. In contrast, the Latin dancing truly came alive! The actors were very much at ease with their dance partners and sure of their dance steps. I had a ball of a time watching them groove to the beat (okay, okay, I almost wanted to stand up and dance along).

Another memorable moment came from the bird mimed by Subramaniam using his white-gloved hands. It was accompanied by a solo piano piece and the combination of visual and aural effects literally took my breath away. At that moment, I really wished I could fly! That was one of many instances where sound, in particular, really heightened the performance and effectively drew straying children back to the performance.
The show also contained many slapstick moments, which sadly, did not have the sparsely filled auditorium echoing with laughter throughout, but which definitely raised a few laughs from kids and adults alike.

At the end of the day, to truly target at family audience is something not easy to accomplish, simply because you have to include elements which are able to satisfy everyone. CINDERELLA DREAMS was a commendable effort from MimeUnlimited; it took a well-known childhood story and crafted it in such a way that was generally entertaining and which allowed us to relate it to our contemporary lives without the story losing its original flavour.
You can never make everyone happy, but they tried their best, and it showed.