Choreographer: Sir David Bintley; Music: Sergei Prokofiev
Birmingham Royal Ballet
The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth
Despite COVID compromises, Birmingham Royal Ballet makes a welcome return with a revival of Sir David Bintley’s award-winning Cinderella under the direction of newcomer Carlos Acosta.
It is a classic, if formulaic, piece and a reduced text, edited Prokofiev score and staging adaptions (to purportedly allow for social distancing and performer ‘bubbles’) do little to diminish its for-all-the-family appeal.
The corps and crew are halved, John F Macfarlane’s lavish sets reduced to the very basic and intervals long as minimal scenery is changed (although entertainment for the younger audience members is promised at the matinée). Effects are pared back to little more than dry ice and a self-igniting fire with the transformation scene particularly noticeable by its absence. But the sparkle is still there, and not just in the glittering fairy tutus and starry backcloth.
A prequel vignette shows the family dynamic as Cinderella and her father stand at her mother’s graveside under the steely glare of the soon-to-be stepfamily—and all swiftly morphs into a dreary kitchen where a dowdy teen waits on her obnoxious, bullying stepsisters.
Momoko Hirata is an exquisite barefoot heroine. Delicate and wide-eyed, we experience her pain and longing as she treasures her mother’s sparkly dancing shoes, smooches with a broom as if her handsome prince and dispenses soup and her most cherished possession to a needy, unknown down-and-out. The pathos is palpable, her solos uplifting and her pointe work quite tremendous—especially her breathtaking controlled descent into the ballroom.
Her prince is perennial favourite Cesar Morales. A good match belying complicated pas de deux with smooth lofty lifts and infinite grace.
Bintley brooks no pantomimic Ugly Sisters but his garish duo Skinny (Eilis Small) and Dumpy (Karla Doorbar in a fatsuit) veer between nasty bullying and playing for laughs. They are somewhat predictably klutzy with the lesson with an exasperated Dancing Master (the lithe Lachlan Monaghan) clearly unlearned as it’s murder on the dancefloor with footmen, oranges, cakes strewn in their wake and even the grandiose Major Domo (a stately Rory Mackay) losing both his cool and his staff.
Laura Day is beautifully arch, elegant and steely as the wicked stepmother while Tori Forsyth-Hecken adds the (rather subdued now) magic as the Fairy Godmother.
The committed corps shine whether costumed in courtly Renoiresque burgundy, grape and charcoal lavish with brocaded frockcoats and frothed petticoats or shimmering in white and silver.
Philip Ellis conducts members of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia live in the pit extracting every nuance from Sergei Prokofiev's sizzling score.
The cast is fluid as Beatrice Parma and Karla Doorbar will be taking their turns as Cinders; Mathias Dingman and Lachlan Monaghan will also dance the Prince; Alexandra Burman and Laura Day step up as the stepsisters; Eilis Small swaps in as stepmother, and Shuailun Wu takes on the role of the Dancing Master.
A family-friendly fairy tale.
Reviewer: Karen Bussell