REVIEW: Matthew Bourne's Cinderella
PUBLISHED: 08:43 18 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:11 20 February 2013
Matthew Bourne's production of Cinderella shows this week at Plymouth's Theatre Royal - a sparkling performance!
In recent years I have seen performances of Nutcracker and Edward Scissorhands both choreographed and directed by Matthew Bourne both fabulous. But being a fan of his modern dance style combined with unique story telling did not make his interpretation of Cinderella at all predictable or less magical. Matthews New Adventure Productions took this well known fairy-tale, and set it in Londons Blitz in 1940. Apt therefore that I should watch this only a few days after the annual war remembrance day and that this production commemorates 70 years since the Blitz.
Matthew Bourne said I am bringing Cinderella back and into the New Adventures repertory for the first time, not only to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the London Blitz but also as a 50th Birthday present to myself! My Grandparents and my Mum and Dad lived a couple of streets away from each other in the East End throughout the nightly onslaught of The Blitz. Cinderella is also my personal tribute to them.
Set against Prokofievs haunting score, the tale is a wartime romance between Cinderella, an outcast in her own family, and an injured pilot, Harry. Prokofiev did write the score during World War Two, and Matthew Bourne seems to have found this darker romance deep within the music.
The ballet was told in three acts, with two intervals, but still felt it moved along quickly in terms of story progression. Act One begins at the family home with a Pathe Gazette news bulletin warning of what to do in an air raid dont look up! it says which seems silly now but was deadly serious all those years ago.
Set design by Olivier Award-winning Lez Brotherston was spectacular. The set throughout was designed like a black and white film, (even most of the ball dresses are shades of grey) with glamour and colour added through dramatic lighting. Set design also helped to create the magic in particular the London underground scene where the dancers made the full use of the stage giving the impression of a much larger and busier space. Surround sound added to the effects from the sound of bombs to tube trains.
Act Twos ball scene actually depicts the real-life bombing of the Caf de Paris in 1941 with haunting dancing representing Cinderellas dream as she dances in her sparkly silver shoes, as well as her nightmare. As she spends the following night alone with her prince Harry the pilot, they dance passionately together, a very moving scene.
Some brilliant mini-stories featured throughout the story too, in particular Cinderellas three brothers. From Cinderellas secretly gay brother falling in love with another service man, and her brother who has a serious shoe fetish, to her youngest brother getting drunk at the ball on all the abandoned glasses of wine. Other moments of the traditional fairy-tale are captured but in a wartime context, for example Cinderella catches the eye of most of the men on the dance floor of Caf de Paris and dances with 5 pilots, soldiers and navy officers all at once to Prokofievs waltz. Also, Matthew Bourne uses the cast to represent non-humans too through dance from gas mask dogs to fighter jets and even ticking pendulum clocks.
Act Three tells the story of Harrys search for Cinderella who has been injured in the Blitz and taken to a hospital ward. On his journey he meets the prostitutes and the spivs on the Thames Embankment who try to steal Harrys last memory of Cinderella the silver shoe as he searches London post-Blitz for his beloved. Cinderella and Harry are eventually reunited in a hospital ward, where Harry is subjected to electric shock treatment, possibly to cure shellshock or his madness in searching for the rightful owner of Cinderellas one shoe.
Star performances included dancing from Cinderella, Harry the pilot, the Fairy godmother (actually a male Angel) and the wicked Step-mother. After the traditional bows and courtesys, the curtain came down and the happy ending continued as the cast celebrated the end of the war dancing like theres no tomorrow.
Definitely worth a watch and look out for future productions by New Adventures Production at the Theatre Royal in the future. This production was part of the Theatre Royals Autumn dance season. See related articles for more information.
Matthew Bournes Cinderella runs until 20 November at Plymouths Theatre Royal. Box Office 01752 267222.