Touring – reviewed at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Guest reviewer: Soraya Scrivener
The impressive trailer promised everything I’d imagined David Bintley’s Cinderella to be and Birmingham Royal Ballet sparkled on the opening night of the tour. Closely following the traditional Cinderella story and split into 3 short acts this would delight audiences, young and old. Much of the company’s accomplished dancers trained at the Royal Ballet School, need I say more. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, skilfully conducted by Koen Kessels and lead by Robert Gibbs, show off Prokofiev’s score magnificently.
The opening tableau at Cinderella’s Mother’s graveside, beautifully lit by David A. Finn sent shivers down my spine. Here Marion Tait introduces the perfectly wicked air of the Stepmother as she ushers the father away from the young Cinderella.
I was pleased to discover the Ugly Sisters were played by women rather than the pantomime approach adopted in recent years. The audience quite rightly enjoyed Samara Downs as Skinny and Laura Purkiss as Dumpy. Purkiss shone, keeping character throughout, as the ballet dancer in a fat suit no less, perfectly taunting Cinderella with Downs and Tait. However, the comedic highlight of the night was when the dancing master attempts to turn the sisters into the belles of the ball. The sisters squabble through their dance lesson with fantastic facial expressions that reminded me of Billy Elliot’s ballet girls.
Designs by John F Macfarlane are striking. Glorious exaggerated wigs and frock coats abound. The starry backdrops, glass coach and the clock are all magical. Though the ball gowns were opulent they were rather on the dark side and I would also have liked to have seen Skinny’s outfits more exaggerated throughout and the Stars tutus more elegant.
The sensational Momoko Hirata danced the title role tonight. Her solo dreaming of being at the ball was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed Delia Mathews solo as the Winter Fairy. With perhaps some first night nerves in her Spring Fairy solo, Miki Mizutani then shone securely when she danced with the other 3 fairies. The small, odd shape of the stage with steps on stage right was perhaps the culprit. This also appeared to hinder the Stars formation and clean lines that was expected and which were executed perfectly at the end of the ballet when the stage was clear.
The opening of Act 2 wows you right from the start with its grand ballroom setting and wonderful patterns the guests dance. This contrasted well with the bumbling sisters. The Prince’s Friends, played by soloists Yasuo Atsuji, William Bracewell, Brandon Lawrence and Tom Rogers made noteworthy performances before Joseph Caley’s fabulous Prince arrived. All of them were perfectly cast. Hirata made a breath-taking entrance to the ball in a beautifully lit silhouette. I was surprised to see her arrive in a tutu when she had transformed at the end of Act 1 into a longer skirt. This was instantly forgotten when she gently descended the steps on pointe. A memorable moment. Caley and Hirata made a great partnership and impressed the packed house with their stunning solos. The company charmed us in the waltz before the inevitable clock chimed.
Photo Credit Bill Cooper
Act 3 opened with a delightful mountain of shoes, upon which each hopeful perched, trying on the slipper without success. We return to the kitchen where Cinderella touchingly reminisces of the night before and once the shoe is returned to its rightful owner we enjoy the splendid happy ending with the Stars, The Prince and Cinderella.
It’s not too late to get tickets to the ball. Performances at The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton until Saturday, then touring to Birmingham, Salford, Plymouth and Sunderland.
Booking now open for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s return to The Mayflower Theatre with The Sleeping Beauty – 31 January 3 February 2018.