James Haddrell speaks on the creatives of the theatre

I’ve been lucky enough to direct some fantastic actors in my time, but sometimes the most rewarding moments in rehearsal can arise from other members of the creative team taking over to develop particular aspects of a show.

Perhaps the most obvious is the musical director.

For our summer version of Cinderella, which opens on August 18, David Haller is back.

David wrote music and provided musical direction for Treasure Island last year, and both Pinocchio and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase the year before.

For this show he has written some fantastic new music and lyrics that stand up against anything currently playing in the west end.

There is something very special for a director in watching, and listening to, a musical director layering a moment with underscore, bringing out a character with song or changing the atmosphere of a scene with harmonies.

A choreographer can do the same for a song, bringing out particular ideas, reinforcing a narrative or transforming the atmosphere of a number, and our choreographer Jo McShane has done just that.

However, in one of my favourite Cinderella rehearsal days so far, as I write this I have a fantastic movement director, Sabina Netherclift, working on turning our company of actor musicians into birds.

Harking back to the version of the tale told by the Brothers Grimm, our story is set in a world infused with birds.

Ella and her father are keen bird watchers, and after he’s gone Ella remains a friend to the birds that live in the nearby forest.

The prince is also a birdwatcher, and the couple first meet when he finally ventures beyond the palace grounds with his book and binoculars.

Without giving too much away, the birds are also the characters that help Ella defeat the stepmother, always there to help her on her journey.

All of that places the birds at the heart of the narrative, but the world in which that narrative unfolds is riddled with avian influence too.

The music is infused with bird calls, and the dance at the ball could easily have been choreographed by birds.

Taken together, that means our cast have to play birds, have to play people in a world littered with bird influences, and have to interact with birds.

The costume design will certainly help with that, but watching Sabina turn a room full of people into a room full of birds in a single afternoon has renewed my excitement about this show.

Despite a story which everyone will know, or at least think they know, there is so much in this show that they won’t have seen before – and that is thanks to the team I have around me and the times when I get to sit back and let them weave their magic.


Picture: Cinderella rehearsal, Picture: Greenwich Theatre

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