Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – until 30 December 2018
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Scottish Ballet’s Cinderella, back at the Festival Theatre this Christmas, is still a festive treat. Christopher Hampson’s celebrated production of Prokofiev’s ballet, originally seen in New Zealand and first presented in Europe by the company in 2015, has huge reserves of charm and elegance.
The story needs little introduction, of course, and those elements that might puzzle – a carriage powered by insects rather than rodents, for example – will not detract at all from a narrative that is instantly accessible and leaves plenty of room for beauty and humour.
Just how funny it is may be the biggest surprise, with Grace Horler and Kayla-Maree Tarantolo as Cinderella’s cruel step-sisters (billed as ‘tall’ and ‘short’ respectively) often threatening to steal the show. Tarantolo, in particular, has the timing of a born comic.
Marge Hendrick’s hauteur as the stepmother and Christopher Harrison as Cinderella’s tippling father provide a mix of humour and pathos in a first act that mixes the comedy with some more emotive moments as Cinders mourns the loss of her mother.
Sophie Martin’s Cinderella has a winning combination of vulnerability and steel, exemplified by some rock-solid yet expressive en pointe work, as the downtrodden Cinders. This is in many ways more effective than her appearance as the tutued princess-figure in the ball scenes, as her pas de deux with Barnaby Rook-Bishop’s Prince takes some time to warm up.
Their later duets, however, have a definite appeal – even if the connection between them never quite convinces. Rook-Bishop’s dancing with Evan Loudon and Thomas Edwards as his friends has a beautifully together, almost effortless feel.
The gorgeous synchronisation of the corps de ballet impresses the most in the central scene, with the ballroom-inflected dancing having a magnetic grace, and providing an excellent setting for the various solo features.
Araminta Wraith’s Fairy Godmother has a languid, eerie stateliness, while Jamiel Laurence, as the dancing master and the grasshopper coach driver, displays an infectious athleticism.
Hampson’s inventive choreography, trading on the strengths of the dancers while never being a slave to tradition, is well served by Tracy Grant Lord’s design and George Thomson’s lighting. The Scottish Ballet Orchestra under Jean-Claude Picard are pin-sharp yet delightfully warm.
The freshness and approachability retained by this revival do all concerned great credit. Perhaps a smidgeon of its personality has been lost, and the humour threatens to overshadow the magic, but it remains a thing of considerable beauty.
Running time 2 hours 20 minutes (including two intervals)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Sat 8 to Sun 30 December 2018.
Wed – Sat (not Wed 26): 7.30pm. Matinees Thurs 20, Fri 14 & 28, Sats, Sun 23 & 30: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.
Grace Horler (Tall step sister), Kayla Maree-Tarantolo (short step sister) and Jamiel Laurence (dancing master). Pic: Andy Ross