Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella
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