DanceDramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella – Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

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

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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One Comment

  1. I went to see the ‘More2screen’ transmission of Sir Mathew Bourne’s Cinderella – transmitted to cinemas across Britain – and I was blown away.

    This is no ‘fairy tale’ – so if you expect pumpkins, ‘Fairy God Mothers’, and ‘bibitty bobbity boo’ you won’t’ find any here.

    Set in The Second World War – when Prokofiov wrote his deeply dark gothic music for the fairy tale – we see the horror of the war on real ‘Pathe Newsreel’ footage depicting our capital being ruthlessly destroyed as Britain was mercilessly bombed as we ‘stood alone’ against one of the worst tyrannical despots in history – and we meet the alcoholic mother and her cold callous ‘war-shirking’ family living a lavish life bathed in luxury when all around is dark – and we meet her tormented and persecuted husband and her step-daughter – the bullied and brow-beaten Cinderella.

    And from this grim reality – cleverly tainted with reference to the Holocaust as we learn that the family are ‘tailors’ and we meet Cinderella’s hapless step-brother wondering around in pyjamas (which people in Hitler’s ‘death camps’ were dressed in) – we see the torturous unrelenting merciless taunting and bullying of Cinderella and her father as invitations arrive to invite everyone to enjoy a lavish decedent party.

    With bombs and carnage all around, what unfolds as the callous family dress in their frippery and finery – leaving Cinderella and her father at home plunged in darkness – is truly spectacular – and it has you riveted right to the very end as a story filled with twists and turns and deep pathos unfolds before you.

    But – like all good fairy stories – it didn’t’ end there – because with our hearts wrung out after watching Sir Mathew’s thrilling, thought-provoking ballet on the big screen (the next best thing to seeing a live performance), what followed was truly magical as we joined Sir Mathew Bourne live from the Curzen cinema in London for a deeply insightful Q + A session covering everything from Sir Mathew’s early works – such as his ‘take’ on Oscar Wilde’s ‘Dorian Gray’ – to what motivates his inspirational ideas when he reimagines classic gothic masterworks and brings a fresh new engaging vitality to them – and how everything is driven by two drivers – the compelling narrative and his compulsive driven passion to deliver to an audience.

    If you did not see last nights transmission of Cinderella at ‘your’ local cinema then you missed out big-time and the only cure is to go to a live performance at a theatre near you and savour this magnificent spectacle for yourself.

    Hopefully we will not have long to wait for the release if the BluRay so that we can watch a Lilliputian version in miniature on a tiny TV screen.


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