'Think no more of this night’s accidents but as the fierce vexation of a dream' Act IV, Scene I, A Midsummer Night's Dream
We begin with a short film which acts as preface presenting the setting of the piece. It is soon obvious that this rendition of Cinderella isn’t set in a far off kingdom, where garden pumpkins turn into coaches, but in 1940s Blitz Britain. As the film ends, I see words floating above the dancers which introduce the performance, creating a dazzling and absurdly bizarre effect; this grandiose introduction leads me to think I’ll be whisked off to another time. As the stage gets brighter, I can start see glorious sets: an impressively dramatic backdrop of a blitzed London. The 1940s London houses appear and the streets are paved perfectly on the stage. The lighting is ethereal and striking- figures dressed in a palette of grey fill the stage- the floating words have now disappeared; booming music crescendos: the stage is now fully lit and the show has begun.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella shares the same concept as the original fairy-tale - it just has a darker and more twisted storyline. Instead of a Prince, we now have a pilot named Harry; we also have a much larger family of step-brothers and step-sisters. In addition, Cinderella’s father, who is assumed to be ex-military (given his uniform), is wheelchair bound.
Without giving much of the story away, a scene which stuck out for me is in Act Two where the Angel (Matthew Bourne’s male version of fairy godmother) manages to entirely resurrect an entire ballroom (transformed into the “café du paris” in this piece) creating a very unique illusion that is enchanting and somewhat bewitching. Another rather charming scene features a dance between Cinderella and her dummy, which is a true pleasure to watch, balancing an innocent humour with the whimsical context of the scene. Special mention must be given to Paris Fitzpatrick who plays Angel in a truly fairy-like way: light and fluid. He is purely superb for the role he plays, grasping the entire audience’s attention whenever he is on the stage.
I was ever so slightly disappointed by the score as the overture gives the impression that such dramatic string interludes and bombarding canons of sonatas are to come. This would have done justice to Prokofiev's piece, and although there were some of these moments, there were very few of them. Unfortunately, there were a few times where the music seemed to be more in the background rather than featuring as an important part of the performance, thus leading to the performance at times feeling a little slow. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the ballet is not accompanied by a live orchestra, but a studio-recording.
Matthew Bourne’s choreography is always interesting to watch; wondrous shapes and unusual moves always feature in his productions. Yet I felt sometimes that the choreography could have required a little less miming, and it I think would have been better to have seen more use out of the dancers in some scenes. It would have been nice to have seen a few more balletic jumps perhaps, or a larger movements from the uniformed cast on stage.
The costumes are very much drawn from the fashion of the 40s, making the storyline again easy to follow. Each of main characters have different elements to their costume to make them easily distinguishable. The Angel, for example, has a brilliant white satin suit, standing out amongst the grey and brown garments worn by the other dancers.
Despite the show having a few slight drawbacks, I would absolutely recommend to anyone of any age to grab a ticket whilst they can, for this production cannot be missed.