Northern Ballet: Cinderella – review

Grand, Leeds
A new Cinderella with a fresh score and an enjoyable cast is hugely entertaining for the first half but falls short of true magic

Most Cinderellas in the ballet repertory are set, as a matter of course, to the 1945 Prokofiev score. Yet, for all its beauty and sophistication, the music's libretto is so tightly pinned to its structure that it's very difficult for contemporary choreographers to reconceive the story with a fresh eye and ear. Hence David Nixon's decision to set his own new Cinderella to a specially commissioned score by Philip Feeney.

Set in imperial Russia, this version is crammed with novelties. A long opening scene introduces us to Cinders as a privileged young adolescent, already shyly attracted to the young Prince. The stepmother is portrayed as a controlling jealous women, a glamorous Mrs Danvers, whose mad cruelty is explained by Cinderella's inadvertent role in the death of her father in a hunting accident. In place of a fairy godmother is an exotic conjurer, while the familiar below-stairs act one is given variety with a winter fair and skating party, stirring in elements of Petrushka and Les Patineurs.

With an enjoyable cast, a wardrobe of Nixon's own elegantly designed costumes, some adroit conjuring tricks and stage magic, the first half of this Cinderella is hugely entertaining. In act two, however, it becomes clear that neither Nixon's choreography nor Feeney's score have the poetic resources to take the ballet further. An overlong ball scene not only lacks a convincing love duet but also a sense of urgency (it's not even clear why Cinderella has to run away). The Prince's moral lapse – when he fails to recognise Cinders in her servant's dress – and subsequent redemption feel like half-hearted political correctness. For all its style and fun, this Cinderella is only spectacle-deep. It lacks the heartstopping dance epiphanies with which a choreographer like Frederick Ashton could give a familiar fairytale the resonance of a love story.

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Contributor

Judith Mackrell

The GuardianTramp

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