Director and Choreographer: Matthew Bourne
Music: Sergei Prokofiev
Reviewer: Lu Greer
The story of Cinderella is a classic, of course. But the combination of a narrative involving a woman desperately pursuing a man to save her, and the endless themes of pretty dresses mean that it is certainly a dated classic at best. With Matthew Bourne’s company being renowned for their reimagining, a strong start to their ballet would certainly be needed to eschew scepticism.
Bourne achieves this neatly within seconds of the curtain rising as a grainy Pathe information reel warns the audience of how to behave in an air raid, quickly transporting them to the 1940s. As the dancers appear in a grey scale and drab London, it quickly becomes clear that his is not a classic fairy tale, but the narrative of a woman trapped in a lonely and desperate home. Cinderella’s house, blacked out for the blitz, allows Bourne to stretch his creative muscles with a host of eerie and bizarre characters all building in excitement as they receive letters to the ball.
Cinders, of course, makes it to the ball this time with the help of an Angel (Liam Mower). Mower brings a power to the role thanks to his dynamic, considered movement and all white costume (Kevin Kilmister).
The choice to move the ball to the Café de Paris, bombed out by the Blitz and quickly restored by The Angel, is inspired. The accents of red among the sets and costumes bring a harsh reminder of reality to the proceedings and the ensemble cavorts to 40s classic jives. It is in this setting that Ashley Shaw as Cinderella takes her opportunity to shine, as she pairs with her prince (Dominic North). They demonstrate a natural chemistry and humour which is so entirely captivating much of the ensemble seems to fade away at times. Indeed, it is this chemistry which makes the Pilot’s Lodging scene, in the aftermath of the ball so genuinely affecting.
The star of this show, however, is the scenery. The London scapes serve as reminders of the omnipresent threat of war, even as the stage is filled with the joy and beauty of movement. Outside of the ominous purples of the sky behind St Paul’s Cathedral, the only colour to appear are the splashes of red in the Café de Paris which serve to add as both a reminder of the violence and to heighten the strange sense of unreality.
Indeed, this sense of being slightly removed from time and place prevails throughout the story thanks to clocks ticking and time shifting. The audience is swept up in the dances, and are never quite able to plant their feet firmly in one place. This keeps everyone invested throughout in the beauty of the costumes, reality of the scenery, and grace of the dance until the final moments as the clock finally moves past midnight.
This modern twist on a classic comes, not from a wish to reinvent a classic, but from having a genuine story worth telling which gives it a heart and a warmth of a true fairy tale, and an unmissable one at that.
Runs Until: 3rd of March, 2018 | Image: Johann Perrson