Cinderella by Matthew Bourne

Matthew Bourne
Cinderella by Matthew Bourne

Matthew Bourne is known for challenging the traditional story via his choreography and his latest production of Cinderella is no different. With music by Prokofiev, Cinderella is now set during the Second World War in London. Our prince of the story becomes a dashing war time hero, a pilot united with Cinderella at a ball in Café De Paris (a nice historical nod) until air raids strike and they become separated.

Matthew BourneThis change in time period and other small but poignant changes such as introducing step brothers to Cinderella’s family works brilliantly. The love story remains at the heart of this classic tale but the context helps add grit and realism.

As always Matthew Bourne’s choreography is a combination of quirky and beautiful. The pas de deux between Cinderella (Ashley Shaw) and her pilot Harry (Andrew Monaghan) in the ball is sublime. It is reminiscent of traditional ballets with beautiful lifts in Cinderella’s swirling gown.  The contrast of this with the dance Shaw performs with her lecherous step-brother with angular movements shows the breadth of Matthew Bourne’s skill.  It also means that each moment of the show is fresh and often challenges expectations.

The cast, without exception, are up to the challenge of Matthew Bourne’s choreography. Our fairy godmother has now become an angel, played by Liam Mower. He plays the role more as a sprite than a serene angel which is much more enjoyable to watch. Michela Meazza is a vixen as the step mother and the step sisters, Stephanie Billers and Nicole Kabera embody the fact that beauty is only skin deep with vanity oozing from every movement.

The design of the show echo’s the period of the setting. The scene at Cinderella’s house is a sea of grey, from the set to the costumes. This theme of sombre colours continue in the costumes throughout. This helps makes Cinderella’s ball gown appear even more magical. The set is also magnificent with the jagged appearance helping demonstrate the brutal devastation experienced during the war.  The piece du resistance for the set being how it falls apart at the stroke of midnight and as the bombs land and Cinderella feels her world is also being torn apart.

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is a masterclass in reinvention with this gritty and relevant interpretation of a classic. It shows how storytelling should be done, not just through the medium of dance but in theatre generally.

Cinderella is playing at Sadlers Wells Theatre until January 27th. There is a limited availability but Sadlers Wells advises checking their website for availability.

If you liked this review you may also like my review of pantomime Cinderella at the Orchard Theatre & 42nd Street.

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