Dark and delightful Cinders
There are a few guaranteed seasonal goodies which never fail to amuse year after year - like that terrible jumper knitted by auntie and the naff Ferrero Rocher ads on TV. The Christmas show at Warwick Arts Centre is decidedly un-naff, more than living up to its seasonal expectations - it's usually one of the most interesting in the region, and this year is no exception.
Cinderella offers bags of fun and catch-your-breath magic for all the family without any panto nonsense - and, like our 11-year-old, you may even get the chance to dance with the prince. A word of warning, though. This version by Ben Power and Melly Still goes back to the tale as retold by the Brothers Grimm, so there are genuinely dark elements - as in all the best fairy tales.
It means there's also an effective helping of gothic folk magic - stags being chased through the forest (genuine silver birches on stage), literal wounds to the heart, talking birds (brilliantly simple) and more, with all sorts of narrative timeslips and overlaps in the style of Lost or FlashForward. Stunning stuff.
The famous ball spills out of the auditorium for the interval and audience members young enough or old enough not to be bothered about making fools of themselves get to don blue shawls and dance with the cast. And wait for the end to grab some magic birds as they float down.
There are some really witty touches - picture frames doubling as windows, most of the cast becoming one giant boar. A fabulous evening, if a slightly overlong first half. A brilliant cast, and intriguing and mesmerising live on-stage music on all sorts of odd instruments.
Cinderella runs to January 3. Box office at www.warwickartscentre.co.uk or 02476524524. I feel like using the Ferrero Rocher catchphrase: "Oh Warwick Arts Centre, you are spoiling us with these fabulous shows!"