Cut out birds, wooden trees, five actors, two musicians, pink tutus and Doc Martens: this Cinderella is the opposite of a big splashy pantomime. But it has oodles of charm and is beguilingly performed, if a little slow to involve the audience.
More based on the Brothers Grimm than the French version with the fur, or glass, slipper (Adam Peck is listed as dramaturg), Sally Cookson's production for Travelling Light, first seen last year at the Bristol Tobacco Factory, uses bird sound to bring together unhappy Ella – banished to the hearth, with the cinders, by her horrid stepmother – and a goofy ornithologist who is not what he seems.
They are both a-twitter, if not on Twitter, and when Ella is deprived of her invitation to the palace ball, she gets the birds to help her repair the pile of socks and broken crockery she's been lumbered with. In Grimm, it's the grain in the cinders they help isolate, but birds sewing socks in a magical instant is perhaps more theatrical.
It's all so artfully and elegantly done that you never feel this is a show done on the cheap (or the cheep), and the coloured lanterns strewn through Katie Sykes' design, and the auditorium, add a touch of glamorous night to the ball, where the stepmother (Craig Edwards) and her two children (Lucy Tuck and Tom Godwin) don their tutus and sparkly tops.
Lisa Kerr is an impish, likeable Ella, Thomas Eccleshare suitably gormless as the awkward prince who solicits advice from the audience on the relative importance of love and money. The search for the owner of the lost boot leads to some good old eye-gouging and toe-chopping, but I only saw one little girl flinching in her seat.
Benji Bower's music takes a risk in keeping to birdsong for the opening 15 minutes, but as the story kicks in, so does the jauntiness and invention. The musical duo of Brian Hargreaves and Adam Pleeth join in the action, too, which involves a lot of quick-changing back and forth into woolly-hatted, bespectacled bird life; but there's nothing too Hitchcockian or sinister about these winning wagtails and warblers.