New Adventures at Sadler’s Wells, London
December 19, 2017
Matthew Bourne strikes gold – yet again. His Cinderella has a bit of everything: Glamour, nostalgia, brilliant staging and engaging characters. If the story occasionally skates on thin ice, there is plenty to compensate.
We have become more used to the surround sound experience and this production, updated from the 1997 version, doesn’t disappoint. The sound design by Paul Groothuis and lighting design by Neil Austin, reproduce the atmosphere of the London blitz as shards of light pierce the smoky darkness and the sound of falling bombs shake the theatre. Lez Brotherston’s award winning designs change in moments between a devastated cityscape, a domestic interior or Café de Paris glitz, effectively framing the action. The cacophony of war, including the gritty reality check provided by Pathé News, finds extraordinary resonance in Sergei Prokofiev’s twentieth century score in this excellent commissioned recording.
Drawing on several films, notably A Matter of Life and Death plus cameo snippets from Waterloo Bridge and Brief Encounter, and, of course, the Cinderella fairy-tale, it is action all the way. The dancers shimmy at the night club, romp through domestic scenes, medics rescue the injured, ladies of the night solicit on the underground and even the Salvation Army are featured, trying to save souls amidst war-time madness.
Ashley Shaw in the eponymous role proves a radiant Cinderella. At the ball she is an elegant blonde in a gorgeous frock of silver sparkle and white silk, sweeping through Bourne’s lush choreography with her dream airman, Andrew Monaghan who complements with film star appeal. But it is the feisty bespectacled Cinders and the dishevelled injured pilot that provide the heart of the show. The passion sparks in their first flirtatious duet where her dance with the tailor’s dummy is cleverly swapped for the man she loves in one of the best choreographic moments of the evening. Her determination and constancy carry her through trials and tribulations to marriage and ‘happily ever after’ as tradition demands.
Also raising the dance stakes is Liam Mower as Angel, a mercurial character, the seriously good guy interpreted by a dancer of extraordinary grace. If Cinderella’s siblings and friends are only lightly sketched, Sybil, the Step-Mother dominates the stage: a sophisticated super star in the Joan Crawford mould. Michela Meazza, who created the role, is the baddie you love to hate with every entrance a tour de force and very nearly stealing the show.
Great dance and dancers, an intriguing plot and visually stunning: Matthew Bourne knows well how to send an audience home with a smile and if the long elaborate bows owed more to pantomime. Well, it is Christmas!
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is at Sadler’s Wells to January 27, 2018, then on national tour. Visit www.sadlerswells.com for Sadler’s Wells booking, or new-adventures.net for tour dates and theatre links.