FESTIVAL THEATRE, EDINBURGH
Reviewed by Mark Brown
Picture the scene. The party at the Prince’s palace is in full swing when Cinderella’s ghastly and garish step-sisters arrive. Wearing lurid, preposterously elaborate dresses, they demand to be the centre of attention.
Pawing at the terrified male guests, the dreadful duo proceed with the most ungainly of dances. Underwear is inadvertently flashed, attempts at elegance end, ignominiously, on the floor, and pairings become solos as the unfortunate men make their desperate escapes.
We expect such bold comedy of the traditional British pantomime. However, there is something particularly delightful in seeing it on the ballet stage, as we do in this European premiere of Christopher Hampson’s version of Prokofiev’s Cinderella.
There are, in the performances of principal dancers Eve Mutso and Sophie Martin, who play the sisters, shades of the hilarious, parodic choreographies of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Like the Trocks, there is an admirable skill involved in Mutso and Martin dancing against their classical training. The pair prove the paradox, one has to be an excellent dancer to dance this badly.
The tremendous silliness of the piece is all the more effective for its contrast with the show’s predominant imagination and style. Hampson’s ballet was critically acclaimed when it was first staged, by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, in Wellington in 2007, and this Scottish revival is blessed with the superb original sets and costumes by New Zealand designer Tracy Grant Lord.
Grant Lord’s emphasis of the connection between magic and nature is a particular pleasure. The scene in the garden, where the fairy godmother bestows her gifts upon Cinderella, is resplendent with living roses, lilac and pink butterflies and a splendidly costumed grasshopper.
The show is also peppered with audacious detours from classical norms. Act Three, for example, begins with hardworking cobblers toiling in a dark workshop until they transform into silk moths. It is a scene which owes more to the visual imagination of the contemporary avant-garde theatres of eastern and central Europe than to traditional ballet.
At Festival Theatre, Edinburgh until December 31, then touring until January 30. For further details, visit: scottishballet.co.uk
This review was originally published in the Daily Telegraph on December 7, 2015
© Mark Brown