REVIEW: CINDERELLA (Milton Keynes Theatre) ★★
The beloved story of Cinderella has captured audiences for centuries, retold in film, pantomime, ballet…
Now Matthew Bourne and New Adventures have brought it to life yet again in this contemporary production that sets the story during the Blitz, in 1940, using Profokiev’s original score.
While this, as a concept is fine there are few real parallels with the story we all know and love. Yes a girl meets a boy; there’s a dance and she loses her shoe, but in-between all of this are a lot of fillers and the magic of the story is somewhat lost.
The stepmother and stepsisters are joined by three stepbrothers, one of whom appears to have a weird foot fetish, and Cinderella’s father is alive (albeit in a wheelchair) and yet seems to ignore the way she is treated. The siblings visibly mock their stepfather, but at the end seem to be all happy families.
There is also a lack of magic, with a strange angel coming to Cinderella’s ‘rescue’ and transforming her into the dream world where she attends the ball. The opening of Act II is quite poignant, a memory of the horrific bombing incident in March 1941, with ghostly figures dancing around the stage.
The scenery and costumes – designed by Lez Brotherston – are fantastic, with bombed buildings, stunning dresses and an absolutely superb train. The music remains beautiful, yet the dark nature of it appears more apparent against this war-torn backdrop.
The underlying moral of this story appears to be that Cinderella (Cordelia Braithwaite) is boring and ugly, with brown hair and glasses, who becomes beautiful when she arrives at the dance – now blonde and with no glasses. We at first thought the understudy had taken over the role, but when Cinderella ‘woke up’ she was once again a bespectacled brunette.
The production is mesmerising in places, but after its gruesome ghoulish opening, Act II unfortunately became quite boring. The dancing itself is quite bizarre, with wooden movements and less ballet than one would expect. Having raved about previous Bourne productions which left me entranced and emotional, this was a huge disappointment.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Johan Persson