Sadler’s Wells, London – until 27 January 2018 then touring
Guest reviewer: Soraya Scrivener
Following two Olivier awards for The Red Shoes, Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures are back. The original 1997 production was reworked in 2010 to critical acclaim and has now been recreated for a big tour following this run at Sadler’s Wells. This Cinderella, of course, has a darker Bourne twist mixing the usual quirkiness with Hollywood glamour.
Set in the second world war when Prokofiev wrote the score, this much-loved ballet music with eerie waltzes lends itself well to this era and the shell-shocked characters in this tale. Instead of a Fairy Godmother we have a male Angel with a motorbike and sidecar as a fun alternative coach. Cinderella has a war-time romance with a wounded RAF pilot rather than a Prince. In act 2 the ballroom is replaced with the bombing of Piccadilly’s The Café de Paris.
Duncan McLean’s first projection impresses as the huge blue slipper sparkles in contrast to the grey backdrop of the London blitz. Aircraft noise and finally a siren set the scene perfectly. Lez Brotherston’s sets astound as always. Act 2 was particularly impressive in how The Café de Paris bombing was reversed from bomb site back to life. Gripping direction from Bourne here too where the Angel commands the transformation. The score has been recorded by an 82-piece orchestra and is presented to us in surround sound which is a touch too loud at times. Along with the advancing projected titles, which I would liked to have seen more of, it felt like you were immersed at the cinema.
Ashley Shaw makes a superb Cinderella from bespectacled geek to glamorous debutante. A joy to watch throughout. Her dreamy dance with a tailor’s mannequin that transforms into an injured soldier was touching. Her reminiscing with the slipper in Act 3 was heartfelt. Michela Meazza was perfectly cast as the glamorous Step-Mother. A great tribute to the wonderful actress Joan Crawford, Meazza oozed movie stardom. Cinderella has not just 2 Step-Sisters but 3 Step-Brothers. The latter having great comical characters which left me wondering why there was a need for the former other than having more fantastic dancers in certain numbers.
Liam Mower plays the silver-suited Angel with panache and dazzled the audience throughout judging by their rapturous applause. However, I felt sometimes he pranced around just to fill up additional bars in the music. He had some nice moments with Shaw and I particularly enjoyed the piece with the 10 airmen.
Andrew Monaghan is ideally cast as Cinderella’s dashing pilot. Their morning after duet was mesmerising, steeped with the heightened emotion of the time. Though not particularly memorable there was an abundance of creative choreography from Bourne for the ensemble in the 2nd act and a pleasing trio for the pilot and his friends. However, movements and lines weren’t in sync enough to wow. After kissing Cinderella, her pilot gets caught up dancing with the Step-Mother. Perhaps this was to fill the music, but it certainly added great comical value to the production.
In act 3, during his search for Cinderella, our pilot gets mixed up with some seedy characters. Monaghan has a captivating solo with the slipper here. The farewells to loved ones in the final station scene is very moving, though it was somewhat broken for me by a tiny detail. The suitcase labelled ‘Just Married’ merely had a hat in it. Why open this so the audience can see? It reminds me of Billy Elliot The Musical when I try to suppress my laughter as he packs only a few items when he moves to the Royal Ballet School. I just want to shout ‘Really, is that all he is taking?’ The finale was by far the highlight of the evening.
This production twists the Cinderella story a little too far for younger audiences who would be more suited to the traditional fairy tale version by Sir Frederick Ashton. As expected this is an incredibly innovative show with a nostalgic tribute to the war years and the silver screen. There are fun and imaginative touches from start to finish.
At Sadler’s Wells until 27th January 2018, continuing its UK tour to Plymouth, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Nottingham, Salford, Bristol, Southampton, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle, Wimbledon, Bradford, Sheffield, Canterbury, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Woking.
Broadcast on the BBC on Boxing Day and screened in cinemas Worldwide throughout 2018.
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