Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella came to the Theatre Royal in Plymouth last week and I don’t think any of the packed audience would have been disappointed.
Prokofiev composed the music for the ballet during the Second World War and it’s against this backdrop that Bourne set this production. The bleak, grim reality of the War was everywhere but the contrast of the fairytale story never reduced it to a cliché. The Pathé filmreel, the drab greyness of the stepfamily’s house, the destruction of the Café de Paris, a scene in the Underground and drab, wet London above, the startling sound of exploding shells; all evoked the grim reality of war-torn London.
Against this background enter Cinderella and her handsome but injured RAF pilot. What I so like about Bourne’s ballets is how he brings these characters to life. Even at the outset, Cinderella shows a bit of spark, mimicking her stepmother and dancing with a tailor’s dummy, somehow making it entirely credible that this glasses-wearing, plain, downtrodden girl can transform into the radiant beauty who literally shines and dominates in her white and shimmering-silver ballgown and who then spends the night with her pilot.
The spiteful step-mother always has a drink in her hand, the step-sisters are vain and empty-headed, one of the step-brothers has a foot fetish – all wonderful characters in their own right.
And then there’s the Angel, traditionally the fairy godmother. This is a male angel who hovers over the stage, wearing a silver suit, ethereal and other-wordly in this grey war setting. I think this was my favourite character in fact. Somehow, his dancing seemed magically ‘light’.
I can’t wait to see Bourne’s iconic Swan Lake which is coming to Plymouth in September (22nd-29th) – tickets are on sale now but they’ll sell out fast.