Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Royal Ballet returns to The Lowry with their version of the classic fairytale Cinderella, choreographed by company director David Bintley and set to music by Prokofiev. Whilst the scale and spectacle of the production may have been the focus of the company’s marketing campaign—and who can blame them at the sight of that exquisite glass coach—it is not at the expense of the story.
David Bintley’s choreography propels the plot along, establishing characters and scenes efficiently. It’s an excellent partner for Prokofiev’s dark and complex score, brought hauntingly to life by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. Bintley makes ingenious use of sudden changes or repetitions in the music—a recurring fanfare phrase in the ball scene fools the guests into thinking the Prince is about to enter several times.
There are a few nods to the classical version created by Frederick Ashton, such as Cinderella’s grand entrance at the ball where she descends the staircase en pointe, or the colourful solos danced by the fairies of the four seasons.
Jenna Roberts is a fresh and youthful presence as Cinderella—her interpretation of the lead role has a genuine innocence, so that the gift of her treasured dancing shoes to the barefooted beggar woman doesn’t seem irritatingly virtuous or self-sacrificing. William Bracewell is a handsome Prince and pulls off some impressively big jumps in his solos.
Cinderella’s stepsisters threaten to steal every scene that they’re in. Whether parodying a ballet class with an appalled dancing master or terrorising the master of ceremonies at the ball by pole dancing around his staff, Samara Downs and Laura Purkiss prove that they are talented comic actresses as well as dancers. Their physicality, use of facial expressions and ability to contradict years of training make their performances both crowd-pleasing and memorable.
From the Gothic opening tableau at Cinderella’s mother’s graveside and the jarring realism of the drably painted kitchen to the panelled ballroom walls painted with a starry night sky, John Macfarlane’s set designs are both witty and beautiful. The Fairy Godmother’s entrance is heralded dramatically but simply, with white light and haze suddenly flooding down the kitchen chimney. As midnight approaches, the inner workings of a ticking clock slowly piece together over the stage.
The act II ball is the ballet’s central set piece—the moody palette for both set and plush costumes provide a perfect foil for the dazzling white and silver attire of Cinderella and her Prince. Their classical pas de deux is full of romantic moments and seamlessly executed lifts. In an interesting twist, Cinderella spends act I dancing barefoot and is not afforded the luxury of pointe shoes until she goes the ball.
The act III pas de deux has a more contemporary feel, as the previously harsh reality of Cinderella's life melts away in the face of the couple's love.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cinderella is a gorgeous, glittering spectacle that delivers on story as well as style, with delightful comic touches and choreography that fits Prokofiev’s music like an enchanted glass slipper.
Reviewer: Georgina Wells