Theatre in Wales

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Colour & Flair to Light Up a November Night

At Ballet Cymru

Ballet Cymru/ Riverfront - Cinderella , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , November 9, 2015
At Ballet Cymru by  Ballet Cymru/ Riverfront - Cinderella A good story is made by a good villain. Ballet Cymru is Wales’ foremost practitioner of narrative dance and designer Steve Denton has created with relish the appropriate villainy for Cinderella’s new and unwelcome family. This version of the Grimm Brothers tale comes with a flavour of Wales. Natalie Debono’s stepmother, renamed Aerona, is a creation of severity in a fearsome black tricorn of a hat and eight-inch long white cuffs. Stepbrother Cas, Robbie Moorcroft, is in clumpy shoes and cut-off trousers while Lydia Arnoux’s stepsister is in fluffy black with pigtails and a goggle pair of glasses. When trying to impress Prince Madoc, Daniel Morrison, her balletic grace makes way for myopic stumble

Ballet Cymru has the habit of travelling lightly so that the performance space is maximised for the dancers. Aberystwyth’s stage has just a white sofa and chair and the rest of the design is made of light and image. Their story sticks by the Grimm Brothers without the sanitising omissions of later versions. The sofa provides a cover for the bloody mini-amputations, instigated by Aerona, who waves high a butcher-size cleaver. The act, thankfully, is left to the imagination, red ribbon passing for blood.

Artistic director Darius James at the outset is to be spotted heading to the back of the Aberystwyth auditorium. It is usual that a director keeps a close eye on the performance, even this far into a lengthy tour. But in fact he is alongside Ceri Benjamin, on lighting, and himself operating the projector. The visual effects commence from the start with beautiful art nouveau tendrils that run over stage and walls. Later, the woodland teems with rain so that Madoc and comrade Maldwyn, Tim Hill, enter with yellow and blue umbrellas. The colour motifs are fauvist in brightness. The floor of Madoc’s palace is a harlequin pattern of yellow and red squares while the upper backcloth has daubs of colour straight from Dufy.

Jack White’s score, an eclectic acoustic-electronic melding, is a marvel. A choppy keyboard base accompanies the introduction of the step-nasties. A flute-like climax accompanies an emotional duet between Allegra Vianello’s Cinderella and Krystal Lowe’s leader of the birds.

The aerial effects are courtesy of Citrus Arts. “Cinderella” has a small element of voice narrative provided by Siri Widgel and Gwyn Vaughan Jones. Acknowledgements for the production are many. They take in some names that are familiar- Hamlyn, Weston, Linbury- but also include confused.com and the Clive and Sylvia Richards Trust. In 2016 the company reprises its Roald Dahl piece as part of the commemoration year. Meanwhile in the not-quite-winter of 2015 “Cinderella” has one thing in common with that other audience-puller of this season. As at “Suffragette” a good measure of Aberystwyth’s Sunday night audience is made up of mother-and-daughter pairs.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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