Cinderella – Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures: New Wimbledon Theatre, 3 May 2011

Published 5 May 2011: Wimbledon Guardian

Making the night go with a bang

Could we get away with a joke about fairies and explosive climaxes? Kerry Biggin and Christopher Marney consider the lawsuits.

The ever popular Matthew Bourne is back at the New Wimbledon Theatre with his ground-breaking production of Cinderella. Originally staged in 1997 and set in wartime London it’s been given an almost total re-design to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Blitz.

It’s a quite dazzling show. The Blitz setting and the opening pathé news reel blending into the opening bars of music bring out the full melancholic turbulence of Prokofiev’s score and stamps Bourne’s typically cinematic take on proceedings. Taking his cue from classic movies such as Brief Encounter and Waterloo Bridge, Lez Brotherston’s staging has a glossy monochromatic look and costumes that convincingly combine wartime austerity with Hollywood glamour.

It’s Brotherston’s sets, however, that steal the show. Big and bold, they’re truly spectacular; it’s not every day that the bombed out Café de Paris rights itself and then collapses again in front of your very eyes. He’s aided by Neil Austin’s brilliantly over-the-top lighting of which the amazing explosion of white light at the end of Act 1 was the most memorable. But none of this would have worked as effectively without some wonderful sound effects from Paul Groothuis. From the literally explosive start of the second act to the life-sapping crackle of the electric shock treatment his technical wizardry really helped emphasise the horrors of life during the Blitz.

In contrast to the excitement breaking out all around Bourne’s choreography is disappointingly unadventurous, although there is an orangey nod to Federick Ashton’s Ugly Sisters in the bobbing heads of the family heading to hospital. The dancing is at its best when recreating the Ballroom and Swing dances of the period but there’s an over-reliance on slapstick to keep the story moving. Cinderella and Harry spend too little time together for their relationship to develop any emotional depth but there are good performances from Madelaine Brennan’s maliciously seductive Step-Mother and Christopher Marney’s easy-going Angel.

For a visual and aural treat, not to mention a good few belly laughs and a timely reminder of recent London history, Cinderella is a show well worth seeing.

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