Matthew Bourne’s Cin­derella

The Guardian Weekly - - Culture Reviews - Luke Jen­nings J

Matthew Bourne’s lat­est re­vival of Cin­derella is an am­bi­tious pro­duc­tion, even by the chore­og­ra­pher-di­rec­tor’s own el­e­vated stan­dards. Cre­ated in 1997, the piece is set in the Lon­don blitz, to a sound­track that over­lays Prokofiev’s fa­mous bal­let score with the over­head grum­ble of Heinkel and Dornier bombers, and the ter­ri­fy­ing whis­tle of their fall­ing cargo. Darkly at­mo­spheric de­signs by Lez Brother­ston fur­ther charge the piece with dan­ger. Life is pre­car­i­ous, death strikes at ran­dom.

Cin­derella (Ash­ley Shaw), the daugh­ter of a but­toned-up wid­ower, is a slave to the whims of her step­fam­ily, and in par­tic­u­lar of her spoilt drama queen of a step­mother (the scene-steal­ing Michela Meazza).

Cin­derella is also re­quired to min­is­ter to her daft step­sis­ters and hor­ri­ble clump­ing step­broth­ers, one of whom has a fetishis­tic thing for her shoes.

Into this dingy mise-en-scène stum­bles a wounded and trau­ma­tised RAF pi­lot, Harry (An­drew Mon­aghan). He and Cin­derella are swiftly smit­ten, and em­bark on their re­spec­tive trans­for­ma­tive jour­neys. Mon­aghan strikes a fine bal­ance be­tween chivalry and da­m­aged vul­ner­a­bil­ity, and dances, pic­tured be­low, with a suit­ably airy dash.

Shaw gives a be­guil­ing per­for­mance as the mousy, put-upon Cin­ders, and her yearn­ing duet with a tailor’s dummy (echo­ing the broom­stick dance in Fred­er­ick Ash­ton’s 1948 Cin­derella bal­let) is as en­chant­ing as it’s funny.

I’ve never been wholly con­vinced of the char­ac­ter of the An­gel (Liam Mower), who like the Fairy God­mother, leads Cin­derella to even­tual hap­pi­ness. Mower is a highly ac­com­plished dancer, but some­thing in his sil­ver-suited per­sona strikes a false, anachro­nis­tic note. The ball­room scene to which he guides Cin­derella, here a dream se­quence set in the ill-fated Café de Paris (bombed with much loss of life in 1941), is clev­erly imag­ined but seems to go on for ever, with con­se­quent loss of ten­sion.

Prokofiev’s score is sump­tu­ous, and shot through with haunt­ing darkn dark­ness, but for long pe­ri­ods in Act 2 there seems to t be more of it than Bourne knows what to do with.

This mat­ters less than it might be­cause the work is so visu­ally ab­sorb ab­sorb­ing. The black­outcur­tained in­te­rior of Cinde Cin­derella’s fam­ily house is con­trasted with the de­fian de­fi­ant glit­ter of the Café de Paris; the streets are a dream­scape of bombed-o bombed-out ten­e­ments and tee­ter­ing ma­sonry; gas­works and bar­rage barra bal­loons are sil­hou­ett sil­hou­et­ted against livid skies. B Bourne has never been a man for mes­sages, but Cin­derella’s Ci theme of love lov lost and found durin dur­ing wartime has a comf com­fort­ing res­o­nance in our o own anx­ious era. At Sa­dle Sadler’s Wells, Lon­don, un­til 27 Jan­uary, Ja then tour­ing the UK un­til 23 June. Broad­cast ver­sion avail­able avail on BBC iPlayer in the UK un­til unti 25 Jan­uary

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