Christopher Hampson CBE
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Scottish Ballet, founded in 1969, is Scotland’s national dance company and is based in Glasgow. It returned to Newcastle Theatre Royal with a sparkling new Art Nouveau inspired production, featuring a surprise twist in that Cinders is danced by either a man or a woman and we, the audience, only know who when the curtain rises!
The performance opens on the Rose family’s milliner business, a wonderful turn of the century shop set with superb costumes, both by Elin Steele. The atmosphere is perfect and reminded me of Newcastle’s own Central Arcade. The story proceeds apace—in fact perhaps too fast—with the happy family, then the death of Cinders’s parents in the fire that burns the shop down. Lastly, the arrival of new owner, overpowering Mrs Thorne and her extraordinary children, two girls and a boy, makes Cinders’s life a real misery. The familiar story unfolds with the arrival of the invitation to the ball.
There’s no mime, which is refreshing, and Mrs Thorne, danced by Aisling Brangan, and her siblings are superbly bizarre, particularly daughter Alice Kawalek, who manages turns (pirouettes), kicks, splits and rolls within seconds of her fast-paced solos!
Cinders's transformation scene into her ballgown is newly interpreted with her parents returning magically to do this—here I felt the music wasn’t always well used. However Cinders, strongly danced by Gina Scott, is now ready for the evening ahead.
The 2nd act opens with the guests arriving and a fine opening dance by the corps de ballet follows. Cinders's arrival transfixes guests and Prince, danced by Jerome Barnes, alike.
The choreography tends to be a little busy, working well in some solos and some of the group work; the romantic duets needed more slow and extended moments. Cinders and the Prince fall in love and, despite the loss of the shoe, all ends well as we know, with the final scene set at Christmas time, so a seasonal win!
This production looks beautiful, but the changes to the superb music composed by Sergei Prokofiev, cutting much of it and adding Prokofiev’s "Summer Nights", affect the overall structure of the evening somewhat.
For those unfamiliar with ballet, this is an entertaining, polished evening with a good clear narrative; for those familiar with other versions or indeed just the music, it may be less satisfying. The gender change to the Cinders role is very welcome.
Reviewer: Dora Frankel