Touring – reviewed at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Fiona Shaw takes the lead in directing Glyndebourne’s first production of Massenet’s ravishing fairytale, and turns it somewhat on its head. The line from the opera “don’t be ordinary, nor too original” feels very fitting for this production which has moments of magic but doesn’t leave you utterly wowed.
From the get-go, the show is a little frantic, with lots of action but no clear centre for us to focus on. Whilst this does make the later scenes of peace and tranquility more affecting, it sometimes feels unnecessary and indulgent.
However, the act one scene of the Stepmother and Stepsisters preparing for the ball, is perfectly overindulgent, just like the characters. Social media obsessed, snapping selfies throughout the whole process and getting padded up to the nines a la the Kardashians, Agnes Zwierko, Eduarda Melo and Kezia Bienek are humourous, vocally excellent and suitably annoying.
Also well performed is the relationship between Cendrillion and her country-loving, spineless father played by William Dazeley. The pair are tender with one another and Dazeley provides some comic relief as he tries to stand up to his wife. Alix Le Saux and Eléonore Pancrazi are convincingly youthful as Cendrillon and the Prince as they perform with heart and passion.
The real star of the show is soprano Caroline Wettergreen as the Fairy Godmother. Dressed in an Elsa-esque coat, with braided hair and sparkles adorning her face; Wettergreen casts spells before reclining in her chair with a cigarette and is perfectly nonchalant but magical. Her coloratura is outstanding and the oak tree dance in act three really shows off her voice, as well as Sarah Fahie’s choreography which is perfectly timed with every trill and ornament.
Jon Bausor’s set brings not only magic to the stage but makes it feel expansive. The use of mirrors throughout, transports us to a huge ballroom and makes the stage seem double the size it truly is. Small details such as the butterflies symbolically appearing across the stage, alongside Anna Watson’s clever use of projections do bring an element of magic as well as keeping the stage uncluttered with unnecessary props.
The ultimate magic of Cendrillon is truly Massenet’s gloriously sumptuous score but this production does a good job of making the classic fairytale more psychological as well as retaining the mystical feel we desire, especially at this festive time.
photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith