Review: Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, until April 28
There may not be a pumpkin in sight, but Matthew Bourne's vivid reimagining of Cinderella is every bit as enchanting as the original.
In this production, the famed choreographer has sprinkled his storytelling magic over the classic fairy tale whilst rooting it firmly in one of the most traumatic chapters in British history: the Blitz.
Our heroine, who displays considerably more defiance than her Disney counterpart, is a grey-clad protagonist holed up in a London town house under the shadow of her lush of a step mother, sneering, spiteful stepsisters and unctuous stepbrothers, one of which has a shoe fetish, while her father, though loving, looks on helplessly from a wheelchair.
Her only escape is through dance and her longing in the early scenes is clear to see as leading lady Ashley Shaw moves beautifully to Prokofiev’s melodious score, whether it be dodging the creepy affections and flaring nostrils of her fetishist step-brother, or seductively sweeping across the stage with a tailor’s dummy in an airman’s hat.
As bombs rain down on the capital, her prince arrives in the form of a dashing, yet traumatised, pilot played with a commanding presence by Andrew Monaghan.
He injects her drab life with passion and romance, never more so than in the ballroom scene, which Bourne has transplanted to the famous war-time socialite hang out of the glittering Café de Paris.
Ahead of her show-stopping arrival, Cinders is transformed by The Angel, performed with amazing technical precision by Liam Mower. Forget the saccharine fairy godmothers of the past, this is an angel for the 21st century, one with a sharp silver suit, flash of blonde hair and an air of mystery.
He spirals around the stage with beautiful fluidity, spreading magic on those he deems fit.
His transformation of Cinderella sees her descend the sweeping staircase of the Café de Paris resplendent in a shimmering silver dress, a beacon in Britain’s darkest hour.
Lez Brotherston’s award-winning set and costume design is devastatingly beautiful as the glamour of the ballroom comes crashing around their ears at the nightclub which was famously bombed in 1941.
Their love a casualty of war, Cinderella and her pilot prince are torn apart after a night of passion. He is left to forlornly pound the rain-sodden streets of London looking for her, only to be reunited in a convalescence home where her stepmother Sybil, played with relish by Madelaine Brennan, finally gets her comeuppance.
After a tender reunion, the achingly romantic finale is at Paddington Station.
And then, in scenes reminiscent of Brief Encounter, with the billows of the steam train encircling them, the pair lived happily ever after.