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 Johan Presson


Festival Theatre

The folk tale of Cinderella is quite an ancient one. Its roots go back even further in time than most may think. Certainly a lot further than those 18th century European collections.  What with it stretching back to China during the T’ang dynasty and even further back to ancient Egypt too! All these tales although with a similar structure certainly have a lot of different embellishments.

That’s what I like about folktales; they’re eternally shifting and adapting. And our culture has such a pervasive effect upon them. Which is why I was quite delighted to encounter Matthew Bourne’s take on Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet of this tale. 1940’s war torn London is his page upon which he chooses to create and he has formed something as equally dark as it is mesmeric.

As well as Prokofiev’s rousing tunes, he is earnestly enabled by Lez Brotherson’s detailed design and Neil Austin’s considered lighting. But it’s his cast of dancers that say so much without raising a word, but express themselves so eloquently with raised legs. Be it the nimble Ashley Shaw as our heroine Cinderella or the equally graceful Liam Mower as Bourne’s interpretation of the fairy godmother.  And with himself clad in a resplendent white suit he certainly comes across as a more puckish if not capricious figure than the maternal source of influence upon his character. He’s certainly aware that there’s going to be more of a bang than a bong when the clock strikes midnight!

Although, we are treated to a sumptuously designed set, and well-tailored outfits that are in keeping with the milieu, at times there can be a little bit of confusion. There are a lot of characters in this piece; Cinderella doesn’t just have two ugly sisters to compete with but a trio of ugly brothers as well! Dan Wright plays his character of creepy stepbrother Vernon with much relish, what with himself even having a foot fetish, much to Cinderella’s chagrin. But due to the fact that there can be so many larger than life characters, at times it can be difficult as to where to keep focus within the big dance numbers.  It kind of reminded me of a three ring circus and what you might lose from one area by focusing on the other.

Johan Presson

In contrast to this I truly was enamoured with a scene that was a two hander between Shaw and Andrew Monaghan, who represents the prince in the guise of flawed and wounded pilot Harry. As they leave their bed chamber that teeters on the cusp of this war torn tableau and sweep each other around this magnificent stage, you do get the feeling that they truly care for each other and that this moment is in danger of being their last on this evening of dreams that’s in the midst of this nightmare.

So although parts may be a bit busy or out there, it does very much add to this wonderful almost trancelike experience.

Markus Helbig

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