mon 15/07/2019

Cinderella, Scottish Ballet, Edinburgh Festival Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Cinderella, Scottish Ballet, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Cinderella, Scottish Ballet, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Christopher Hampson's fairytale fills the seasonal family ballet slot nicely

Pretty in pink: Araminta Wraith as the Godmother with Scottish Ballet dancers as Roses in Christopher Hampson’s 'Cinderella'© Andy Ross

When producing Cinderella, the main question is: sweet or sour?  That Prokofiev score is splendid, but it's no walk in a candy shop; in Act I the stepsisters have passages so scraping, spiky and dissonant that sugar-coating would seem to be out of the question. On the other hand, there's a Nutcracker-like family audience at the ready for pretty productions which skim lightly over the whole neglect and cruelty thing – but that leaves you with a story so bland that even Disney had to invent singing mice to perk it up.

Big international choreographers tend to go for more acidity, but with limited success: Ashton's hammy Ugly Sisters in drag detract from his attempt at grand classical homage; Christopher Wheeldon's fiddling with the scenario makes it as vapid and distasteful as an episode of Sex and the City; and Alexei Ratmansky's grim Soviet setting resonates beautifully with the score but perpetrates design horror. Christopher Hampson's 2007 Cinderella – originally made for Royal New Zealand ballet and here restaged on Scottish Ballet, of which he is Artistic Director – shows him to be firmly in the sweet camp, an altogether safer place occupied notably also by David Bintley's 2011 Birmingham Royal Ballet production, with its enchanting John Macfarlane designs.

Hampson's production is designed by Tracy Grant Lord, who has done her job well in supplying lushly pretty visuals. The best tableaux are in the enchanted garden where Cinderella is transformed and whither she and the prince return at the end: it's dominated by a swirly Art Nouveau-style rose vine (see main picture) and inhabited by lovable insects in sequinned frock coats who help her change into the belle of the ball. The ball itself is also the scene of clever design, with diminishing-size chandeliers and the shimmering outline of a distant formal garden creating the illusion of grandeur and glamour for the relatively small number of dancing couples who swish around in Top Hat-style evening togs to Prokofiev's gloriously sardonic waltz theme.

The pink tulle confection worn by Araminta Wraith as the Fairy Godmother may be so voluminous as mostly to disguise her dancing, but this isn't really the kind of production you come to for choreography: most of the straight dancing is workaday, particularly that for Bethany Kingsley-Garner as Cinders, who must repeat the same sequence a dozen times at least in Act I. Cinderella is not a particularly exciting role, with all that playing straight and sweet, but Kingsley-Garner, a little blonde of girl-next-door wholesomeness, does it prettily, with gallant partnering from Christopher Harrison's prince.

Jamie Reid and Matthew Broadbent as Dressmakers, Eve Mutso as the Tall Stepsister, Sophie Martin as the Short Stepsister and Jamiel Laurence as the Dancing Master in Christopher Hampson’s Cinderella. Photo by Andy Ross.

Hampson displays a sure touch with his storytelling. Each act begins with dancers already moving around on stage before the lights dim, plunging us into the action with effective speed. I could have done without Act 3's extended and rather hammy shoemaker sequence, but it is followed by a really clever little Chorus Line vignette with apparently disembodied legs that more than made up for it. The Step-Sisters (pictured above) are danced by Principals, petite Sophie Martin as the dim, dopey one and leggy Eve Mutso as the mean, string-bean one, and they steal scenes with their comic antics, particularly in the ballroom – checking out terrified potential suitors – and with the "glass" slipper.

Wonderful dance-actress Mutso is so funny with the latter that I barely noticed the romantic reunion of the main couple taking place stage right. Mutso is leaving Scottish after the Cinderella tour for a new career as an independent dancer-choreographer; a gain, perhaps, for dance overall, but a real loss for the company, which is fairly short on talent at the top end – though Sophie Laplane's elegant, witty turn as the Step-Mother suggests she might in time succeed to Mutso's crown as queen of the witch/mother/vamp role.

Richard Honner and the Scottish Ballet orchestra can be relied on to do a fine job – here they are lush in the waltzes, agile and mysterious in the magical garden – which makes a tight little complete package of this production. It may not be the most inspiring show you ever see, but then Cinderellas rarely are. This one fills the Christmas family ballet slot nicely; good luck to it.

  • Scottish Ballet's Cinderella is touring to Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness until 30 January.

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