BalletDanceFestive 19/20North East & YorkshireReview

Northern Ballet’s Cinderella – Leeds Grand Theatre

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

Music: Philip Feeney

Director: David Nixon OBE

Musical Director: Jonathan Lo

Set in the Russian countryside where Cinderella lives in unison with her father, stepmother and her two stepsisters, this version of the fairy tale sees Cinderella upset after her stepsisters throw a prized shawl into a lake. Her father attempts to retrieve it but is shot in the process bringing tragedy, particularly to Cinderella. The remainder of the family move to a new home and Cinders is confined to the kitchen and to being a servant by the wicked stepmother. This adaptation is more of a realist story than a fairy tale one – it has a Russian cultural theme throughout as is made clear by the stage backdrops and costumes, plus the bright summers and the long winters (the magical winter scene where the dancers “skate” instead of glide).

David Nixon OBE directs, choreographs and designs costumes for this spectacular take on this magical tale of rags to riches. Cinderella’s costume change from scullery servant to a brief excerpt of life in the bourgeois fast lane is particularly impressive. The young Cinderella Rachael Gillespie and the elder Dominique Larose both play their roles with complete veracity. Riku Ito excels as Prince Mikhail who is dismayed when his dancing partner disappears at the ball, while Cinderella’s stepmother Countess Serbrenska who has aims only for her own daughters, is played with sufficient meanness by Antoinette Brooks-Daw. These step-sisters Natasha and Sophia are played with a horrible arrogance by Helen Bogatch and Ommaira Kanga Perez, who bully Cinderella in her enforced slavery. Matthew Topliss as the Magician who makes Cinders’ dreams come true is played with great aplomb and physical dexterity. The ensemble performance is simply magnificent including a host of servants and market sellers, stilt walker, a juggler, acrobats, skaters, a bear and huskies, and the ballroom guests. There is great attention to detail and the variety of roles give the show a visual splendour.

Philip Feeney’s delightful score is perfectly performed under the baton of Northern Ballet Sinfonia Conductor Jonathan Lo and the leadership of Geoffrey Allen. While Duncan Hayler’s set design is exquisitely evocative, whether depicting the pots and pans of Cinders’ downstairs dungeon or the finesse and finery of the ballroom.

The Prince’s ball and the subsequent search for his beloved has to be the highlight of the show, thankfully avoiding panto tricks by preferring a sense of mystery and anticipation. No spoilers here but the finale puts an end to Cinderella’s tragic life of servitude with a transformation where she is both wealthy and loved.

Northern Ballet once again, following their superb adaptation of Dracula, produce a tour de force that uses its thematic content to engage and enlighten the audience intensely. Watch this space for the World Premiere of Geisha and be sure to take in Cinderella either at its Leeds or other tour dates.

 

Runs until January 2nd 2020 | Image: Emma Kauldhar

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