Vivienne Kennedy reviews Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, playing at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 24 March.
Matthew Bourne says he first fell in love with Prokofiev’s Cinderella score through watching Frederick Ashton’s version of the ballet for The Royal Ballet. I fell in love with it through watching Bourne’s re-telling of the classic tale when it first visited the Bristol Hippodrome in 2011, and fell all over again last night.
If you’re expecting a slapstick pantomime or sugar sweet fairy tale, you might be disappointed, but only for the merest of moments because this is a sublime piece of dance theatre, deserving of all the superlatives you could throw at it.
Bourne has given the story his own unique twist and filmic style, setting it in the early 1940s, during the war-time years when Prokofiev wrote that beautiful, dramatic music. You’ll recognise the story – thanks to her fairy godmother (or handsome angel in this case) the girl goes to the ball despite her family’s efforts to stop her… girl meets boy, they dance the night away, the clock strikes 12, they lose each other, she loses a shoe, he finds it, and eventually there’s a happy ending.
But this version offers so much more, including the crucial element of being based on a true event, the bombing of London’s Café de Paris on 8 March 1941. It’s moving, sometimes funny, and really rather sexy in places, which you don’t necessarily expect from our Cinders!
The dancing is, of course, exquisite; the principal roles danced last night by Ashley Shaw, Dominic North and Liam Mower. But it’s the overall package that makes this show such a delight. There are fabulous costumes and sets from Bourne’s long-time collaborator Lez Brotherston – the palette is muted, but the dresses still sumptuous and oh so enviable. The lighting, courtesy of Neil Austin, is perfect, and the projections, designed by Duncan McLean, inspired. There is always loads to see on stage but at one point I found myself completely distracted by a rain effect and trying to figure out how it was done – it was one of many magical moments.
I enjoyed the Pathé news reels that have been interspersed with the dancing and found myself thinking about how we digest news today – how could people have borne that war had they been subjected to 24-hour constantly in-your-face news and images the way we are now?
It’s not an overly long show, just over two and a half hours, and at the start I was unsure it needed two intervals. But each act is so intense, you, and your eyes, welcome each short break. And if we felt like that, how much must the dancers have needed a rest?
I love this show, absolutely love it. If you’ve got tickets, you’re in for a treat. If not, what are you waiting for? The link’s in the next line if you want to book.
Photo: Johan Persson