Director and Choreography: Matthew Bourne
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
Imagine two things which you wouldn’t dream of combining in a million years. Fairy Tale Fluff and World War Two Drama are likely on the list. But somehow Matthew Bourne has done it, and through the medium of ballet to boot.
Cinderella is both exactly what you expect – the tale of a downtrodden stepdaughter (Ashley Shaw) spending an enchanted evening falling in love with a handsome stranger (Andrew Monaghan) – and everything you don’t – creepy foot fetishes, drunken revelry and oh yes, The Blitz. It is easy to forget you are watching a classic story and also inescapable, so perfectly blended are the plot and the setting. Something about moving away from Fairyland into 1940s war-torn London gives a much-needed lift to a well-trodden tale, adding an adult veneer to the childhood favourite. And for once explaining why the prince doesn’t immediately recognise the women he is supposedly head over heels for! The added chaos of falling bombs and injured soldiers, also has the audience really rooting for the characters – when death is a very real possibility, and PTSD a likely bedmate, you cannot help but wish for a happy ending.
Along with the setting and context, the characters have been updated too. In addition to two stepsisters, Cinderella also now has three stepbrothers. Two of these, Vernon (Dan Wright) and Malcolm (Ben Brown), are especially great additions, the former for the sheer level of creepiness he exudes in his every movement, and the latter for his background romance with RAF man Buster (Reece Causton). This couple could honestly have a ballet all of their own so invested does the audience get in their story. It is, however, a little disappointing that these brothers’ vibrant character developments come at the expense of developing the original sisters. There is no reason these two could not have been female characters.
Mathew Bourne’s choreography is, as always, breathtakingly beautiful, and he combines 40s Lindy Bop with pirouettes as if they have always belonged together. Especially beautiful is the duet between Cinderella and her prince, RAF pilot Harry, after their night together, which can be read as a mixture of love, regret and fear. Shaw and Monaghan bring tears to the eyes. The fabulous set of bomb-hit buildings accentuated with moving projection and grand set pieces slides from a mansion to a Paris inspired dance hall, to the seedier areas of the London Underground and is complemented by stylish costumes and the gripping score by Prokofiev. Some younger audience members might find some of the noise and falling pieces on the scary side, but the overall effect is awe-inspiring. Cinderella really is a feast for the senses, and a highly recommended show for ballet lovers and ballet novices alike.
Runs until Saturday 19 May 2018 | Image: Johan Persson