African Studies Course Union Presents: Cinderella
This past month, the African Studies Course Union (ASCU) put on a Africanized version of the beloved story of Cinderella to sold out crowds at the Robert Gill Theatre at the St. George Campus. Written and directed by Vanessa Jev, Cinderella (pronounced Cind-a-rella) starred first year U of T student Abigail Whitney, and told the story of—you guessed it—a young woman living under unfortunate circumstances. Her luck suddenly and remarkably changes when she and her Prince Charming—who here goes by Dami and was played by Hassan Dioubaté—fall in love at a ball planned by his annoying parents.
Jev’s recreation of this cherished tale is not only well-written, it’s also romantic and funny. In comparison to other retellings of the French folktale, ASCU Presents:Cinderella takes you back home to Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, or the Congo, wherein every family member behaves like the narrator we are given. Played by Elo Igor, the narrator demands our immediate attention and guides us through the story even though we do not understand her role until much later. In addition, Jev’s version of Cinderella gives us three great friends instead of the brown mice we are accustomed to. Amara, played by Agape Amponsah-Mensah; Nneka, played by Sasha L. Henry; and Leila, played by Daniella Kalinda, who also takes the stage by storm with her monologue on Black beauty and all its glory, something that is rarely conversed about in the mainstream media. These three women are always ready to defend Cinderella against the wicked but brilliant step-mother, played by Nicole Nwokolo, and her equally annoying yet terrific step-sisters, Ivere, performed by Cailyn Stewart, and Khadija, played by Uju Madu. They are ultimately the type of friends you can only dream of, even though they sometimes have ulterior motives, such as trying to see if your shoe fits their foot so they can potentially steal your (future) man.
Nevertheless, like all versions of Cinderella,ASCU’s Cinderella ends happily when the Prince places the long-lost glass slipper—or in this case a black pump—on the right foot. While the play only ran for three days, its soundtrack, its style, and its glamour will remain an instant staple for Black and African representation in U of T theatre history. Hopefully, it will catalyze a trend in where more classical Disney tales are retold with a multicultural perspective.