It’s fair to say that Matthew Bourne and his production company New Adventures have changed the face of ballet forever, with innovative and brilliantly choreographed modern re-workings of some of the most popular fairy tales in the classical dance repertoire, from Nutcracker to Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty which risk overshadowing the originals due to their mass popularity. For anyone familiar with Bourne’s inimitable style, a Blitz-inspired reworking of Cinderella was an exciting prospect, as evident by the sell-out 2017 run at Sadler’s Wells, with the production now on an equally acclaimed UK and international tour booking until next year that is venturing as far as Los Angeles. With the Gothic Tim-Burtonesque light and shade that is typical of his productions, it’s no more exclusively reserved for children than watched only at Christmas. No, Matthew Bourne is for life.
The crippling Nazi bombing of London’s West End is the unlikely setting for this wartime fairy story, with The Café de Paris at the heart of the action, a real-life victim of the devastation and an inspirational venue to show the ‘keep calm and carry on’ fortitude that means we’ll forever be in love with the era. Lez Brotherson’s costume and set designs are key in illustrating the magical transformation of the hard-done-by Cinderella (Ashley Shaw) when under the spell of the white satin suited Angel (Liam Mower); the mood changing from grey and dreary to romantic and utterly glamorous with forties ballgowns, seamed stockings and red lipstick galore.
In line with the theory that blondes really do have more fun, Cinderella’s natural lank brown hair is also coloured and swept up Grace Kelly-style, while her moustachioed Prince Charming, aka ‘Harry the Pilot’, is played by the carismatic Dominic North and looks rather like a dashing young David Niven. Catching the tour at the Bristol Hippodrome before it heads off to Southampton and Cardiff, I felt fortunate that original cast members North and Shaw were performing on my night, for it was a joy to see them dance together after avidly watching the BBC broadcast of the show transmitted over the Christmas holidays.
Brotherston’s Olivier Award-winning set design includes the iconic St Paul’s surrounded by flames and destroyed buildings, while Paul Groothius’s Surround Sound music was originally recorded using a 60-piece orchestra, interposing air raid sirens with Prokofiev’s tumultuous score to great effect. That said, it always gets to me when a ballet doesn’t have a live orchestra and this production is no exception. In fact, it’s more annoying due to it being so superb in every other way. Bourne has created another masterpiece in a catalogue of masterpieces, the only trouble is keeping classical ballet alive when the alternative is so darn entertaining.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella on a UK & International Tour until 2019. For more information and to book tickets please visit the website.