Cinderella – Dutch National Ballet: London Coliseum, 8 July 2015

Shoe fire hit

'Oh Anna! Too much starch in your costume again?' Matthew Golding and Anna Tsygankova play it straight in Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella. Photo by Angela Sterling.

‘Oh Anna! Too much starch in your costume again?’ Matthew Golding and Anna Tsygankova play it straight in Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella. Photo by Angela Sterling.

Although Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella starts off pretty morbidly with Cinderella’s mother coughing up blood into a hanky, beyond that it doesn’t really live up to the programme’s exaltations that it’s a darker representation of the famous fairy tale. It’s definitely more Frederick Ashton than Quentin Tarantino.

The stepmother comes across as bossy rather than evil and the stepsisters more like silly little girls than nasty bullies. The Prince has a meatier role than is traditional but he’s still basically a bit of a spoiled fop and at no point does Cinderella seem particularly traumatised by her life experiences – even her working dress looks expensive and funky. This Cinderella is played mostly for laughs and good old-fashioned romance and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Rather like Prokofiev’s music at that point, the first act is a bit fractured. There’s an awful lot of story to cram in and an ungainly amount of scene changes. Things get a tad confusing what with Fates, various Spirits, bird-ladies and tree gnomes all putting in an appearance. Still, the first meeting of our Prince and Cinders is rather charming and the transformation of our heroine’s coach is very imaginative.

The final act too was a little bit of a let-down. There were some excellent comic moments – the shoe-fitting scene was great – and the very end was extremely touching but the grand pas, the real meat of any classical ballet, never really hit home. In fact, it paled in comparison to the terrific pas de deux in the second act.

For it was the second act, the ballroom scene, where this ballet succeeded best. It was a dazzling array of colour, wonderful movement and fantastic visuals. The storytelling was fluid, rich in detail and superbly put together. Matthew Golding’s Prince came alive in his pas de deux variation – he covers a lot of ground very quickly and the big leaps showed him at his most excitingly forceful. In Cinderella’s variation Anna Tsygankova’s footwork was fast and precise and she used her arms in such an intelligent way that they fully emphasised the thrill of falling in love that was emanating through her character’s whole body.

Julian Crouch’s set designs looked brilliant, his costumes were just what you wanted (with the added surrealism of bird-ladies and giant-headed tree gnomes) and The Royal Ballet Sinfonia played Prokofiev’s wry score beautifully. In short, Dutch National Ballet’s Cinderella is a fine show, a bit of an event, and danced superbly.

Cinderella runs at the London Coliseum until 11 July 2015. Check the Sadler’s Wells website for more info and tickets.

Gerard Davis

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