Theatre in Wales

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More posh panto than ballet?

Cinderella

Scottish Ballet , Wales Millennium Centre , January 26, 2007
Cinderella by Scottish Ballet MAYBE it was just too close to Christmas and its surfeit of novelty, jollity and frivolity.

Donít get me wrong. This is an imaginative, visually wonderfully appealing production and the music of Prokofiev unfailingly intoxicating.

But for all the magical ideas of designer Antony McDonald and choreographer Ashley Page this proved an emotionally-detached and oddly flat evening of ballet where, frankly, you had neither sympathy for old Cinders nor and loathing for her grotesque step-family.
I thought at one stage that the show might be more attractive for children as it is filled with bright and at times whacky costumes, neat witty effects such as a SMEG-style fridge, vast piles of dirty dishes and a portrait with red glowing eyes.

We have the traditional orange replaced by vast orange of wheels with an opening lid revealing allsorts of scrummy goodies. The Princeís bedroom has aeroplanes hanging from the ceiling. The foreign princesses are displayed in a sort of high class peep show (well, maybe large picture frames?).
But when the little girl in front of me let out an extremely loud yawn I sypmathised with her.

Perhaps it is because what is most striking about the show is its novel look rather than concentration on dance, with the danger of dragging it more into the realms of posh panto than ballet.

On the plus side I loved the way Cinderella travels to the ball in a pumpkin hot-air balloon rather than the conventional coach and the juxtaposing of the action from internal rooms to a fairytale palace garden worked very well.

There was also sufficient grossness to bring the odd little squirm here and there such as the ugly sisters mutilating their feet with gruesome saws in a pathetic attempt to fit that magic slipper.

There is no forgives in this fairytale as we have a dark ending with the ugly sisters reduced to broken wrecks pulling the stepmother in an invalid bath chair while in the background Cinderella and her Prince embrace.

Those costumes are redolent of the style Vivienne Westwood introduced about 10 or so years ago, the big wigs, highly stylised outrageous takes on 18th century gowns and bodices. Similarly the men are preened in their wigs and frock coats, fortunately tailored to allow the freedom of dance.

Back to the dance. It takes quite a while before we moved from introducing the characters and explaining Cinderellaís predicament to finding out what these dancers can do.

Fortunately when called upon the Cinderella of Claire Robertson rises to the occasion as a charming and delicate dancer. While her prince Erik Cavallari is dashing enough his showpiece aerial displays were secure rather than sensational.

Eve Mutso, Patricia Hines and Louisa Hassell proved witty character dancers as the stepmother and stepsisters in a show that emphasises their vulgarity and ridiculousness rather than cruel.

The whole evening is a more satisfying affair when dance is allowed to take centre stage, particularly Soon Ja Lee as the fairy godmother and the delightful four contrasting seasonís pieces from Tomomi Sato, Sophie Martin, Martina Forioso and Ruth Vaquerizo Garcia. Similarly the Prince and male companions execute a fine pas de quatre at the palace ball while our pair of fairytale lovers is suitably elegant in their pas de deux at the ball and the finale of the story.

It is undoubtedly a visually engaging production and the lighting by Peter Mumford, particularly the transition from day to evening, is gorgeous. It is indeed witty and bold danced by a company that has re-established its credentials after a period in the wilderness.

But this evening lacked the connection, intimacy and emotional link that I remember being very much in evidence last time I saw Scottish Balletís Nutcracker at the more modest Theatre Royal, the companyís home base in Glasgow. And indeed it was December.

While WMC is a fabulous stage for dance on this occasion it may have been a case of simply swamping the show. But then maybe if this had been a Christmas rather than January show it would have sparkled superbly. It certainly deserves to.

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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