Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

10/05/11

First seen in the West End in 1997, this revised production of Cinderella takes the traditional fairy tale and turns it on it’s head. A chance meeting between Cinderella, a bookish and oppressed girl in a well-to-do society house, and an injured RAF pilot replaces the traditional ball setting here, and along the way there are many changes to the plot you may be expecting, though the basics are all here.

The blitzed streets of London are the setting for this tale, and are presented beautifully, both through movement and intelligent stage design. Lez Brotherston seems to have created a living black and white film, with the colour pallet firmly based in shades of grey – glamour and colour added only through lighting. The set is extremely detailed, with a backdrop of rubble and searchlights that is striking from the moment you enter the theatre. The most dramatic moment is perhaps the moment when time rewinds, and we are treated to the image of a bombed café slowly reforming itself while dancers rewind the last moments of their life. It is chilling and beautiful, and made all the more poignant by the fact that Bourne sets his ball in the Café Du Paris, the infamous underground dance hall that was heavily bombed, killing 34 revellers in the process.

For me, the most beautiful set piece was in the third act, when Bourne uses simple hospital screens to create dozens of different sets. It is inherently theatrical, and compliments the dance beautifully, as its fluidity allows the dancers much more freedom.

Prokofiev’s fairytale score is sometimes in brutal contrast to the destruction and clamour of war we are presented with, but on the whole it works almost perfectly, perhaps because Prokofiev composed the work in the middle of the second world war. Bourne has also introduced new elements that make the clamour of war still louder. Wailing sirens, the rattle of anti-aircraft fire and the crashing of bombs merge seamlessly with the score, while a screen shows a propaganda newsreel of burning buildings, and what to do when the bombs fall on London. Purists may see the recorded score as something of a cheat, but I found it presented in such a way that it really didn’t matter. It was theatrical spectacle at its finest. 

I should explain before comtinuing, my expertise lies firmly in theatre, and while I enjoy dance performances, I do not have the expert knowledge to back it up, so while I very much enjoyed Matthew Bourne’s innovative interpretation of this traditional fairytale, I cannot go into much detail on the quality of the dance performances. I can only say that I was blown away by the mix of modern elements and traditional ballet – and the story was expressed through the choreography perfectly. Each movement seemed to be incredibly precise in meaning, each characterised exactly by those utilising them.

The narrative is an intelligent take on the classic story that will leave you sometimes struggling to catch up, but in a wonderful way. Bourne fills his stage with not just the wonderful love story of Cinders and her mysterious pilot, but also a whole host of wonderful supporting cast (I may be wrong, but I don’t recall a man with a shoe fetish ever being mentioned in the story books!). It is only towards the end of the third act that the story falters slightly and Bourne dwells a little too long on our concussed pilot. To quote my companion “Well, he had a knock to the head, went a bit mad, then started running around London waving a shoe at people. No wonder everyone thought he was mental”

But then just when Bourne seems to falter, he finishes with a spectacular flourish. Paddington Station becomes a place of magic and wonder, as we are presented with other young couples meeting and parting at the station. A sailor cradles his new baby, soldiers leave their partners with lingering kisses, and in the midst of it all, Cinderella finds her happy ending. Through this touching scene, Cinderella turns into another kind of fairytale – the miracle of love in war.

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