Cinderella

David Bintley, Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Hippodrome

Elisha Willis as Cinderella and Iain Mackay as the Prince Credit: Bill Cooper
Iain Mackay as the Prince with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; Credit: Bill Cooper
James Barton as the Frog Coachman with Valentin Olovyannikov and Jonathan Payn as Lizard Footman Credit: Bill Cooper
Carol-Anne Millar as Dumpy, Gaylene Cummerfield as Skinny and Iain Mackay as the Prince with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet Credit: Bill Cooper

Cinderella is the best-known fairy story in the world. It has been told many times by many nations. At the last count I think there was something like 1,259 versions.

Which would you prefer: a traditional Christmas pantomime, an opera by Rossini, a ballet by Prokofiev, a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, a cartoon by Walt Disney, a film by Kenneth Branagh or a World War 2 epic by Matthew Bourne?

Cinderella first appeared on the British stage as a Drury Lane pantomime in 1804 when the great clown Joseph Grimaldi played Buttons.

There’s no Buttons and there are no drag artists in David Bintley’s version, which premièred in 2010 and was filmed the same year at Birmingham Hippodrome.

The ballet begins with a little girl at her mother’s grave. You instantly feel you are in for a Grimm fairy tale. However, when you jump 10 years and find the fairy godmother (Victoria Marr) is the ghost of Cinderella’s mother and that she was a ballet dancer, you feel you are in the kinder fairy tale world of Perrault.

Elisha Willis looks like a poor, pale and underfed waif, never allowed out of doors and having to live in a fantasy world with fairies, mice, lizards, frogs and princes who are charming. She dances with her broom pretending the broom is her beau.

Willis is a gentle Cinderella, radiating goodness. Iain Mackay is a dashing, manly prince ready to leap in and give her the most extraordinary high lifts, every girl’s heavenly dream.

John Macfarlane’s designs are notable for a gigantic clock tick-tocking its way to midnight. The clock looks like something out of the German expressionistic films of the 1920s and 1930s and Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.

Cinderella’s kitchen is surprisingly dank and dirty and certainly not a room Cinderella’s elegant stepmother would allow visitors and certainly not royalty to see. Marion Tate is perfect casting for the chilling and sinister stepmother.

The less said about her daughters and their ridiculous costumes for the ball the better. They are so very unfunny. (I still remember how wonderfully comic and original Frederick Ashton was in his own ballet.) Bintley’s Ugly Sisters are at their best when they are just being nasty schoolgirly bullies and not trying to be funny.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch