1 February 2019

Scottish Ballet - Cinderella (Theatre Royal Newcastle)

Well, January officially sucked (I forgot to book a holiday somewhere hot, again). But you can always count on dance to cheer you up, especially if it involves a timeless fairytale, stunning costumes, a spellbinding score and ballet of the highest quality. I'd been looking forward to Scottish Ballet's Cinderella for weeks, and it definitely managed to lift my spirits and to remind me of the forthcoming light in the darkness of winter.

Scottish Ballet

I was immediately struck by the beauty of the staging as Cinderella (the sublime Marge Hendrick) visits her mother's grave where she plants a single rose in her memory - an ornate rose bush winds its way up almost to the sky, curving into the shape of a heart (or the wishing tree in the Brothers Grimm version). This touching gesture is quickly forgotten as we meet her beleaguered father's (Matthew Broadbent) new family - his bully of a wife (Aisling Brangan) and her two spoilt, nasty yet often amusing daughters (Grace Horler as the Tall Step-Sister and Claire Souet as the short Step-Sister). Cinderella's stepmother wants to sell off the family's belongings to fund her luxurious lifestyle - cue the sisters taunting and teasing Cinders as they try to wrestle her beloved mother's portrait from her. You start to see the nuances of Artistic Director Christopher Hampson's choreography here, and it's delightful, especially in the movement of the stepsisters - equal parts comical and domineering.

Cinderlla at Theatre Royal Newcastle
From top left - The Fairy Godmother, Cinderella, the Stepsisters try to be elegant and the Silk Moths
News of the Royal Ball has reached the household, bringing a lot of excitement. Cue dress designers with rails of ballgowns, shoemakers and a dancing master who arrive to prepare the stepsisters for the grand occasion. The sisters lark around with layers of tulle, showing their mischievousness and comic timing as they play off one another. Poor Cinderella's left to make her own dress which is destroyed along with her invitation by her wicked stepmother. Cinderella retreats to the safety of the rose garden and we meet the Fairy Godmother (Roseanna Leney) who elegantly grants her wish - she shall go to the ball. One of my favourite parts is where the Fairy Godmother introduces Cinderella to the natural world - beautifully dressed roses (the artists of the Scottish Ballet) come to life as Cinderella's wish is granted, as well as a particularly resplendent and jumpy Grasshopper (Bruno Micchiardi who also plays the Dancing Master) alongside Silk Moths and Spiders who create a jaw-dropping outfit for our heroine.

Cinderella ballet
The Roses come to life
Act II brings even more spectacular sets and choreogaphy at the Royal Ball - there's no shortage of glamorous dancing couples but the Prince (the masterful Evan Loudon) isn't interested in dancing with anyone (his loneliness is palpable in his solo) until he sets eyes on Cinderella, who arrives in a stunning white cape covering an even more beautiful tutu. Their coup de foudre leads to a magical pas de deux (duet), after which Cinderella is presented with a beautiful, sparkling rose. You realise the brilliance of the Scottish Ballet Orchestra and Prokofiev's score as the clock (woodblock) chimes midnight (and we all know what happens next, but instead of a glass slipper this time the key to finding her is a bejewelled satin ballet slipper).

Scottish Ballet at Theatre Royal Newcastle
At The Royal Ball (from top left) Step-Sister (Short), Cinderella's stunning entrance, Cinderella and The Prince, Step-Sister (Tall)
At the beginning of Act III we encounter a dark stage where shoemakers are working hard at their craft after being instructed by the Prince to make exact replicas of the slipper that was left behind (this ends up being more difficult than it looks). Frustrated the Prince takes the original slipper and vows to find the owner. Cue more hilarity and echoes of the original darker versions of the tale when the Stepsisters practically mutilate their feet to make the slipper fit. Unfortunately the wicked Stepmother has got her hands on the other slipper, but luckily Cinderella has something else that's symbolic in her possession to make the Prince realise she's the mysterious woman who disappeared. The happy couple fittingly cement their love during a flurry of rose petals after both have overcome the trappings of their families and loneliness to find happiness at last. Both dancers deliver nothing short of elegance personified.

After grief, bullying and a life of mundane domesticity, Cinderella deserves her happy ending
With spectacular staging by Tracy Grant Lord, an incredible performance by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, plenty of idiosyncracies and lots of fresh energy injected by Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and stunning, bold interpretations by the dancers this is one version of the timeless classic you don't want to miss! 

2019 marks the Scottish Ballet's 50th anniversary year (SB50) and an unprecedented programme of new work. Spring! (March to May), their second Digital Season in May which you can watch online, The Crucible (August to October) which opens at Edinburgh International Festival before touring Scotland and finally The Snow Queen (December 2019 to February 2020). If you get the chance to see any of these productions, don't hesitate! 

Scottish Ballet's Cinderella is at Theatre Royal until February 2nd. Tickets are available here  (running time two hours and 20 minutes with two intervals).

Photos by Rimbaud Patron and Andy Ross

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