Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella
Tuesday 20 March 2018
Review by Deborah Adams and Jen Smith
It’s been a sad start to the week for dance company New Adventures, currently at The Bristol Hippodrome with Cinderella. On Monday, the company released the sad news that Associate Artist Scott Ambler had died.
The immensely talented artiste’s name is synonymous with the company who started as Adventures in Motion Pictures. He danced in the original cast of every major Bourne ballet, into their New Adventures development and their original production of Cinderella.
Although Ambler amassed a highly regarded collection of his own work, he is probably most famous for his role as the Prince, in the company’s original production of Swan Lake in 1995.
The ballet was groundbreaking, not only for the updated setting, story, humour and unique choreography, it was groundbreaking for its bold gender role swap. The swans were cast as men, which really opened up the choreographic opportunities. It took a fresh approach to Tchaikovsky’s score and gave us swans with grace, beauty and strength yet merged with the sinister and dangerous.
Scott was The Prince to Adam Cooper’s The Swan/The Stranger. That high profile partnership on stage has echoed through the characterisations created by dancers in other New Adventures ballets. Its future echos travelled right through to last night’s Cinderella in Bristol, at the South West theatre this week as part of the company’s UK and Ireland tour.
Some twenty plus years post-Swan Lake, it is a brilliant generation to grow up in. Straight is no longer the default. Seeing a male couple dancing together on stage without a single eyelid batting in largely traditional looking audience shows just how far we have come. Younger generations of theatre goers are getting the opportunity to see a broader spectrum of diversity, gender and sexuality on stage than ever before. There’s still a long way to go in commercial theatre, but it’s moving in the right direction.
Most importantly in last night’s context, it was not a driving force of the storyline. It was not an essential plot twist or development. It was a male couple in the ensemble, in the background, in the normal hustle and bustle of characters. If you take your eyes off of the principle dancers for long enough, you will see that’s where some of the most entertaining things happen.
There’s always a danger that sexual orientation becomes a key mention when talking about Matthew Bourne’s ballets. It really shouldn’t be. But, when you watch a lot of commercial theatre, it’s so refreshing to see a cross section of characters so naturally and occasionally with good humour represented on stage.
This production of Cinderella is set in London during The Blitz. with Act II taking place at the Café de Paris, which comes back to life after taking a direct hit on 08 March 1941. This is a perfectly logical period to set the piece considering Prokofiev’s score was written between 1940 and 1944, during WWII.
War time Britain is beautifully brought to life by Lez Brotherston’s stunning sets and costumes, whether it’s the bustle of the tube station or the underground glamour of the Café de Paris.
Deborah Adams reviewed last night’s performance with her eleven year old daughter Megan. She writes:
I’ve seen many Matthew Bourne ballets over the years. Whilst I was prepared for another lovely performance, it was actually fascinating watching it through the eyes of my child. It was like watching it with fresh eyes and rediscovering the beauty of the show all over again.
Last night’s casting featured the incredible Ashley Shaw as Cinderella, Dominic North as Harry The Pilot and beautifully flamboyant Liam Mower as The Angel. But for me, Madelaine Brennan as The Stepmother Sybil was just incredible. So delightfully imposing and awful, just by her mere presence.
There was a lovely moment when she dances with Harry, who manages to incorporate checking the time on his watch with a dance move. That covert checking of time in a situation when it would be indelicate to do so is something we’ve all done and can relate to. It’s those bits that stood out for me, the human side of it. It’s the everyday in the choreography which makes this ballet so enjoyable.
It seems unfair to particularly point out any one dancer though, because what you have with a Matthew Bourne show is that everyone is amazing. You have the story line moving along, but it’s easy to stop watching that, leave it to develop and have fun people watching the delicious incidents taking place in the background.
And how does an eleven year old child part of Generation iPhone cope with a New Adventures ballet?
Megan Says: “It’s a ten out of ten from me. I loved it. It was brilliant. My favourite part was when Cinderella was dancing with a manikin on wheels, which turned into a real person as they passed a curtain. I haven’t seen a ballet since I was eight and this was really different. Sometimes it was nice just to close my eyes and listen to the music. I really, really enjoyed it.”
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 24 March 2018. This is definitely a show not to miss. New Adventures productions in Bristol are always a treat and we are fully expecting to see Swan Lake this time next year please.
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