The (not so) fairy-tale Of Zinderella

“It was fun!” This was the sentence I heard the most after the performance Zinderella by NITE. The movement-based performance had all the qualities the company embodies: it was meaningful, maximalist, rich, skilful, entertaining and challenging. Amidst exuberant sets and exquisite acting and dancing skills, Zinderella excelled. Bringing the theme of insecurities, it is the kind of artwork that made me think; it touched the deepest part of my soul, at the same time that it allowed for me to laugh, or at the very least, smile about it. In the end, I even stopped thinking whether or not my hair looked good, because I just wanted to join the performers on stage, I wanted to feel like a child again and simply, I wanted to have fun.

Zinderella 2022 - NITE

This multidisciplinary performance was a wild adaptation of the fairy tale of Cinderella – as any adaptation by the NITE ensemble has to be wild. The story was shifted so as to focus on the images we have of ourselves, presenting six different Cinderella characters, each with their own complexes. The subject matter couldn’t be more relevant: in the times of pretty people showing their pretty life on Instagram, it is very easy to fall into the trap of judging ourselves just for the fact that we aren’t perfect. The show reminded us that we are not alone, perfection doesn’t exist, and we should just embrace our unique and weird selves. 

The ‘weirdness’ appeared thanks to Moniek Merkx’s maximalist theatre aimed at young audiences. The sumptuous and colourful sets certainly attracted young eyes. There is, of course, the bright red scrims that covered the stage when I entered the theatre. But things got more pompous throughout the performance. At some point, a gigantic leafless tree hanging from the ceiling came down on stage – it was both weird and impressive. There was also, of course, the stage within a stage with red curtains: thehe ball scene. That was certainly maximalist. The actors occupied the entirety of the space, going even outside of the stage to dig in a chest full of all kinds of costumes. Amidst all the colours and gigantic trees, a unique atmosphere was created. Perhaps it was not something that my eyes are used to – it was too much to capture it all – but it certainly left an impression. 

More impressive than the sets were the performances by the young actors. And here I must take a moment to acknowledge the skilful dance of Bodine Sutorius. Only 23 years old, she was already a strong presence on stage. At times aggressive, others graceful, she impressed the spectator’s eyes. She impressed me! Mature, precise, rhythmic… Brava. Accompanying her on stage were actors of all ages, from 10 to 30 years old. At first, I had thought this would be a problem because of the differences in experience as an artist. But it definitely was not. Instead of being shadowed by the more experienced, the younger performers had their own space, opening up doors for everybody to relate – it is all about representation. A smart strategy from Merkx to attract spectators of all ages. 

Zinderella 2022 – NITE

Can you imagine that it actually worked? It was an absolute delight to arrive at the theatre and see all generations coming together – yes, all generations! Sure, it was a fairy tale and dealt with a topic that is mainly present in our teenage years – the classic bad hair day or the pimple nobody wants – but everybody had something to gain from this experience. Thus, children, teenagers and adults alike sat next to each other, laughed at the same things, were triggered by the same problems and experienced the same here and now that only theatre can bring. 

“A dazzling performance for teenagers and anyone who has ever been one.”

And don’t come to tell me that you do not think about this pimple stuff anymore and that you cannot really relate. I know there are days you wish to have more hair, less hair or simply a different hair. Don’t lie to me. 

What made Zinderella so relatable were the recognizable motifs. Starting by stripping naked one of the performers, they drew on her body, making sure to judge every inch of her skin and mark in red the parts that needed changing. In the rest of the performance, banal gestures were stylized to fit the choreography. The performers squeezed their breasts to appear to have more, stopped breathing to look thinner, pressed their biceps to look stronger, and tested their best faces to the audience. Pose. Face. Pose. 

The Cinderella story served as a pretext to fit all these motifs. Indeed, the fairy godmother, instead of bringing magic, brought self-judgment. Through a simple ballet choreography, making a bouré in her bizarre platform sneakers and dressed in an all too pompous white tutu, the performer explained what was wrong with her. “Braccia troppo storte, raddrizza le ginocchia, non essere troppo alta o troppo bassa” (yes, she was saying it all in Italian, I did not really get it either). Together with the fairy godmother, a dance around the huge tree represented our own self-judgement. In this powerful and heavy scene, the different Cinderellas become silent figures in agony, provoking their own demise. This was by far the most touching scene of the whole performance, as it was all too terrifying to face the truth…

… We are our most cruel judges.

The heavy tree scene is immediately counterbalanced with a lighter one at the ball. Although the same motifs from before continued, it was all in a true party ambience. In a frenzy, the performers danced, and changed clothes, and judged themselves, and obsessed over their appearance. But in the end, they just put on the weirdest clothes you can think of to finally enjoy the party. 

After that, Cinderella found her prince and I was ready to applaud. Surprise, surprise: it wasn’t over. In the curtain calls, everybody was still dancing. The roots of the tree started to throw water on stage creating the perfect spot to slide. At this moment, I wanted so bad to join them to dance in the water, slip and slither smiling on stage. I couldn’t help but quietly dance in my chair. 

Zinderella 2022 - NITE

It was good to watch people having some fun, especially after experiencing retable people perform a retable message, a slap-on-the-face message. All those impressive maximalist elements were there to make me vulnerable so that their intentions could reach me like an arrow. I encountered again a childish innocence in the careless will to look like however I want to look like. And that night, when I was leaving the hall, when my mind started thinking that I wasn’t properly dressed to go out for dinner, I stopped myself and remembered what it was like to not care about all this. I was reminded of the performers dancing completely wet on stage and giving the purest smile you can think of. And so I went to have dinner with a sweatshirt and dirty sneakers, because I simply couldn’t care. I was feeling like a child again, in the best way possible, and I thank NITE for that. 

Designed by Giulia Cristofoli