Theatre in Wales

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Like a flat chanpagne cocktail

Cinderella

Scottish Ballet , Wales Millenium Centre , January 28, 2007
Cinderella by Scottish Ballet One would expect from the combination of two ‘enfant terribles’ of the classical music world some mighty fireworks, even some mind-blowing bits of art. But here it is only Sergei Prokofiev, who from his earliest piano playing years made it clear that he was determined to break away from the romantic music of the Tchaikovsky school, under the confident and sensitive baton of Nicholas Kok, that emerges with any glory. Though even he is slightly diminished by Ashley Page’s confused choreography and muddled interpretation of the magic story.

Page is an artist whose critical support is divided right down the middle with some critics who feel he can do no wrong and others who feel more frustration with his work than realisation. He has a difficult job to do. On its own ground Scottish Ballet, arising from its far-seeing innovative founder Peter Darrell, is regarded as a modern dance company. Like Darrell,Page has been honoured for his services to dance. Appointed Artistic Director in 2003 he has made some good headway in recovering the company’s fortunes from the low state it found itself in 2000.

With some of its minor keys, Prokofiev’s Cinderella would seem the ideal vehicle to bridge the gap between the classical and the modern. It certainly lent itself well to Sir Frederick Ashton’s bold comedy approach back in 1948 with Moira Shearer and Michael Somes as the young lovers and Ashton with Robert Helpmann as the ‘Ugly’ sisters. Determined balletomanes will I’m sure find many moments to enjoy in this production. Quite legitimately, Page seeks to introduce a note of menace into the proceedings. But he seems to be unsure of how far to go and falls back onto comedy, where he clouds the cocktail.

In a short introductory mime we see Cinderella’s real mother pass away. That is the only conclusion to draw but like much of the early narrative it is not as clear as it needs to be. The eighteenth century Westwood/Warhol inspired costumes looked great fun, worn by the evil trio of Soon Ja Lee as the wicked stepmother and Patricia Hines and Louisa Hassell, the sisters. Like most in this very able and enthusiastic company of dancers they looked as if they desperately wanted to go for it but were held back by the overall production, which looked distant and failed to completely captivate and raise hearts.

Some moments of engaging dancing did emerge from under the blanket. Martina Forioso’s Autumn enlivened the stage early on and in the opening of the second act the entrance of the Prince and his Chevaliers emboldened the stage and got some of us sitting up. The sad retreat of the now self- crippled (but still the slipper wouldn’t fit) sisters and step mother indicated the black comedy elements, skirted around in the production that, fully embraced, would have really gripped and astounded the audience.

Opportunities were missed. In preparation for the ball, a couturier entered with assistants carrying yards of pastel and brightly coloured materials, Prokofiev’s music implied that much more expansive fun and satire could be got out of this moment. Cinderella, delicately danced by Claire Robertson was ‘sickenedly’ treated by the females in her family, her mother’s ashes were rubbed into her face and hair, she was forced to eat her torn Ball Invitation ticket. The scene was not strongly enough embraced. Of course there was a happy ending but by this time not many of us cared. If this was a champagne cocktail, most of the bubbles had gone out of it.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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