Workshop 3: Setting the Scene

stepsisters in doorway

Ashley Page’s Cinderella is set in 18th Century French -  before the French revolution. The extremes of rich versus poor are apparent in the ballet of Cinderella and design plays an important part in supporting the roles of the characters and the telling of the story.

In the time that Cinderella is set, France was ruled by King Louis XVI .This period is known as the Ancient Regime and it was a period where a minority of rich nobility ruled harshly over a large number of peasants. France was in an economic crisis pre-revolution and there was a feeling of unrest because all of the power was in the hands of the rich. The rich kept the best jobs, lands, food and housing and anyone without money could not advance themselves. The peasants were poor, hungry, and resentful of their King and Queen.

The rich discriminated against the poor and left them starving. They used the old feudal system to make life very difficult for the peasants with many rules and regulations that left them powerless.

Marie Antoinette is famous for saying ‘let them eat cake’ which (whether or not she really said it) is an indication of how out of touch the Queen of France was with the plight of her people. She was executed by guillotine at the height of the French Revolution in 1793 for the treason.

Getting ready for the ballOne of Cinderella’s stepsisters is obsessed with cake and you often see her diving into the large American style fridge to get some! Of course, in 18th century France they did not have fridges but the humorous props add an ironic element and reference Marie Antoinette’s love of cake.

Marie Antoinette was well known for her excesses. Rich fashionable clothing was expected of the Queen and she was the trendsetter. Wealthy families looked to the monarchy for a role model and aspired to be like them by buying the same clothes, décor etc they were nicknamed the bourgeoisie, the nouveau riche or newly rich a name that still exists within our language today and that imply wealth without class.

The step-mother in Cinderella is described in such a way, and her telephone, couture catalogue and décor imply she is aspiring to step up a class.

Task: research Marie Antoinette and King Louis XV1.


Continue to workshop 4