News: Cast and creatives announced for Polka Theatre’s Christmas production, Cinderella: the AWESOME truth

Polka Theatre is bringing wonder to Wimbledon this winter, with the world premiere of madcap musical adventure Cinderella: the AWESOME truth. This feel-good festive show, with music and lyrics by the award-winning Felix Hagan (Operation Mincemeat, New Diorama Theatre), celebrates the power of friendship and self-worth.

Co-produced with One Tenth Human (Arthur, Edinburgh Fringe First winner) and written and directed by Sarah Punshon (The Box of Photographs, Polka Theatre), this adventure to remember has been co-created with Toni-Dee Paul (Artist Associate, Selina Thompson Ltd). Inspired by conversations with children and scientists about the classic fairy story and healthy body image, it promises to be a fun and refreshingly modern take on a beloved story.

The production features a cast of upcoming stars and West End talent, including Jade Lauren (Rent, Shaw Theatre) as Cindy, Tiajna Amayo (NYT REP company) as Ella, James Keningale (Henry V, OVO) as Prince Charming and LJ Parkinson (Death Drop, The Garrick Theatre) as Dandini.

The production will feature set and costume design by Oliver Townsend (Macbeth, Manchester Royal Exchange) with puppets created by Judith Hope (The RSC/V&A Museum), with lighting & video by Gillian Tan (South Pacific, Chichester Festival Theatre), and sound design by Tom Attwood (Holes, Nottingham Playhouse). The creative team also includes movement director Jreena Green (The Fantastic Flitcrofts, Working Title Films) and One Tenth Human producer Rafia Hussain (What Fatima Did, Derby Theatre).

Director and co-creator Sarah Punshon commented: “We know children from a really young age are grappling with pressure to look a certain way. So, we talked to our scientific advisors about how to create a joyful Christmas show that would help boost kids’ self-esteem. Our heroes learn that what they look like on the outside, what kind of dress they wear or what kind of hair they have, is absolutely not the most important thing about them.

I’m so excited to bring these characters to the main stage in the gorgeous new Polka building. Felix’s songs are incredibly joyful, the perfect way to celebrate Christmas!”

Co-creator Toni-Dee Paul added: “It’s been so exciting developing our unique take on the classic story. It all started with the team going into schools and asking children what they thought a contemporary Cinderella and Prince might be like – that’s how Ella ended up being into parkour and boxing!

They told us what was important and exciting about the story, and we ran with their ideas – as well as coming up with some of our own… They also told us what kind of music they love – and so Felix has written these amazing tunes.:

Polka’s Christmas season also features a fantastical reimagining of the classic Christmas Eve poem The Night Before Christmas, which draws inspiration from Clement Clarke Moore’s much-loved poem. Written by Olivier Award-nominee Hattie Naylor (Ivan and the Dogs) and directed by Roman Stefanski (Sarah and Duck, UK and International tours), with designs by Kate Bunce (The Smartest Giant in Town, Little Angel Theatre) and original music from Julian Butler (The Snow Queen, Polka), this co-production with Royal & Derngate Northampton is the perfect sprinkling of seasonal magic packed full of surprises. It will also be the first production in Polka’s new Adventure Theatre.

Director Roman Stefanski commented: “The fun magic of making theatre is being able to pick up any topic, story, incident, happening, dream and create a play. The creative team have had an exciting time in being inspired by the well-known Christmas poem and adapting it, making it feel more relevant to the experiences and values of children today. This warm-hearted and wonderful journey tells of a young girl and a reindeer working out their grumps and differences to form a friendship that reaches the skies, spreading gifts around the world! How? Well that’s for you to come and see and find out. Welcome to The Night Before Christmas…”

Tickets are available from £10, and can be purchased via phone 020 8543 4888 or online at *

*A £1.50 transaction fee applies to phone and online bookings

Photo credit: Ali Wright

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