REVIEW: The fairytale of wartime in Cinderella

PUBLISHED: 14:17 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:00 22 March 2018

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, with music by Prokofiev. Credit : Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, with music by Prokofiev. Credit : Johan Persson

Johan Persson

Cinderella may be known for surviving the wicked ways of her ugly stepsisters, but in the latest production to arrive at Bristol’s Hippodrome she also survives the Blitz.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, with music by Prokofiev. Credit : Johan PerssonMatthew Bourne's Cinderella, with music by Prokofiev. Credit : Johan Persson

Matthew Bourne – who is widely celebrated as one of the UK’s most successful and popular choreographers and directors – has brought Cinderella to the Bristol Hippodrome and with it comes a background of ballrooms and bombs.

The show transports you back to World War Two, as Cinderella’s Prince Charming arrives in the form of a young RAF pilot. In a chance meeting of the pair, young love of course blossoms, but before they have time to live happily ever after bombs begin to fall and the stage is reduced to rubble.

I went to see Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes when it came to the Bristol Hippodrome last year. That show had me captivated from start to finish so I had high hopes for this production, but perhaps my expectations were a little too high...

Let’s start with what did work (and in a fantastic way, too) – the set. The intricate design was so well thought out, from the Fairy Godmother’s arrival from high up in the wings to the transformation of a wartime home into the Café du Paris ballroom.

The lighting, too, made the entire production emotive, adding drama when Nazi bombs were falling and emotion when Cinderella was loving, and leaving, her prince.

The score to the show is the work of Sergei Prokofiev, and was written during World War Two. It was not until the late 1990s that Bourne used the music for Cinderella, but it makes perfect sense that he would adapt the fairytale to suit the wartime backdrop rather than the other way round.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, with music by Prokofiev. Credit : Johan PerssonMatthew Bourne's Cinderella, with music by Prokofiev. Credit : Johan Persson

When leaving the theatre I overheard someone say ‘I bet that would be a hard watch for anyone who lived through the war, at points it was very realistic’ – high praise, for a fairytale, I’d say.

The dancers, too, are incredibly talented – but there was something about the show that just didn’t captivate my attention in the way Bourne shows have previously. At one point I was thinking about those chicken fajita leftovers in my fridge at home…

This show is full of group dances and I found it hard to be drawn in by some scenes, with my senses unsure where to focus and so instead flitting from one dancer to another.

The costumes were done well, and really transported you into the wartime era, but I found the men’s boiler suits detracted slightly from their dancing. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but I felt the baggy clothing stopped me seeing the beauty of the dance. Cinderella’s post-transformation dress, however, was a work of pure beauty.

Despite my reservations (and I must stress I still thoroughly enjoyed my evening) this journey from fairytale to war was an exciting one. It quickly became difficult to believe you were sat in the theatre, as the sound of bombs rang out and flames reduced the stage to rubble.

My favourite scenes were undoubtedly those with Cinderella (Ashley Shaw) and RAF pilot Harry (Dominic North). There’s a beautiful dance where she begins with only a mannequin as a partner, before Harry replaces the model. This quirky dance was funny and endearing, and made the start of their love story a sweet one.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, with music by Prokofiev. Credit : Johan PerssonMatthew Bourne's Cinderella, with music by Prokofiev. Credit : Johan Persson

The story was told so well throughout, through fantastic physicality from the evil step-family to the wonderful score by Sergei Prokofiev.

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is at the Hippodrome, in St Augustines Parade, until Saturday (March 24). There are performances at 7.30pm each night, as well as 2.30pm tomorrow (Thursday) and Saturday.

Tickets, priced £16.50-68.90, are available from www.atgtickets.com/shows or 08448 717627.

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