Scottish Ballet Cinderella
**** 4 stars
I wonder if Christopher Hampton is in a time warp, and hasn’t realised he’s creating ballets in an age which is accustomed to Matthew Bourne’s ballets and expects a more continuous story line and costumes that don’t look as though they come from mid-way through the last century… mind you, this ballet was first created for New Zealand in 2007: maybe it’s simply showing its age, like the rest of us.
This is a little harsh but oh dear … the Fairy Godmother [who first came out of the undergrowth, gave her god-daughter a pumpkin and disappeared again] wore what looked like a governess’s costume in a very drab greyish colour. Her rose fairies were equally frumpy with pink skirts and green tops that did nothing for them – or me. At the ball, the guests were dressed identically, the men in evening dress, the girls in dull pink and black frocks, with which the sister’s acid green and bright pink dresses clashed horribly – but maybe this was the intention? Cinderella and the prince were lovely in silver and gold but why was she the only one in a tutu? And don’t get me started on the grasshopper and moths in the garden scene –they were straight out of the pastiche ballet in the middle of MB’s Swan Lake but without the permission to laugh or even giggle because everyone else was taking things so seriously!
There were slight twists to the classic Cinderella story. On her mother’s death Cinderella plants a rose bush in her garden, which she visits when she can: when she leaves the ball, she drops a sparkling slipper, but retains a silver rose the Prince has given her. The Prince orders copies of the slipper to be made and sent out throughout the kingdom – but still takes the original with him as he hunts for his beloved. The wicked stepmother finds and destroys Cinders’ remaining slipper, and the one the Prince brings with him somehow manages to fit Tall Stepsister. He is about to accept her as his bride when he sees that Cinders has the rose, and it all turns out well…
The characters are excellent – especially Kayla-Maree Tarantolo’s short Stepsister, who had a fabulous comic sense and way more heart than her taller sister, and richly deserved to end up with her one of the Prince’s Best Friends [Evan Loudon and Thomas Edwards]. The other one’s reluctance to dance or have anything to do with Tall Stepsister was obvious, but not overdone. Grace Horler’s tall Stepsister was as mean as her heartless and greedy mother [Marge Hendrick], while Cinderella’s father [Christopher Harrison], though loving, sought comfort in alcohol and stood by while his daughter was cruelly treated by her new family. I felt very sorry for the grasshopper [Jamiel Laurence] and the moths [Constant Vigier and Bruno Micchiardi], who did the best they could but were fighting a losing battle with their ridiculous costumes: the tailors and cobblers made a much better job of their cameos. The corps did a good if slightly ragged job, and the Prince and Cinders [Barnaby Rook-Bishop and Sophie Martin] were technically superb – one amazingly high lift somehow corkscrewed down into an impressive hold: but I guess (a) I’ve been spoiled by a recent diet of Matthew Bourne, Ballet Rambert and the Trocks and (b) I’m not a ballet expert and so don’t appreciate the finer points of what I see [no pun intended].
What were the bits I really liked? The row of legs as the Prince went by with the sparkling slipper… the rose moon which first bloomed in the garden and watched over Cinderella when she was at the ball… the dressmakers’ dance with Cinders and their tape measures as they made a ball dress for her… and the lovely transformations from house to garden. It was a delight to have a real, and huge, orchestra making a very good job of the Prokofiev score – and unusual to see them applauding their conductor as he left the pit to go on stage and receive his applause.
The story was well told, and the loneliness of both Cinderella and her Prince were subtly shown, especially when the rest of the action was frozen and the main protagonist showed their isolation from the people around them. I usually love Scottish Ballet and really enjoy their shows: I enjoyed the storytelling but got bored when it was interrupted by some ‘show-off dancing’.
There was a delighted ‘aaah’ from the audience when finally the happy couple went to the garden and rose petals showered down on them, and plenty of warm applause both during and at the end of the show. It may have failed to excite me, but most people were delighted and went home happy – the woman next to me saying she’d been transported into a wonderland she’d not experienced since she was eight years old. Go and see it and make up your own mind.
Scottish Ballet Presents, Cinderella, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until 30th, December, for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/sbcinderella
The production will then tour to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle.
Review by Mary Woodward.