Rather like a matryoshka doll, this Russian-themed Cinderella is intended to contain layers within layers.
The characters are contrary to stereotype and far from one-dimensional, so although the captivating stepmother (Hannah Bateman) manages to ooze evil with a single raised pointe, she is given a misguided reason to hate Cinderella.
And while the stepsisters (Luisa Rooc, Miki Akuta) mercilessly tease Cinderella (Lucia Solari), they also enjoy a group hug when they discover she too is invited to the ball.
Even the prince (Javier Torres) is not so charming and is disgusted when he discovers the love of his life is a grimy servant girl. He haughtily flees from her house and only later realises his big mistake when her sparkly slipper is about to be destroyed.
This emotional depth is enhanced by Philip Feeney’s new score, brilliantly played live by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia. While not more Russian than Sergei Prokofiev’s classic opus, first performed in 1945, the new score is lushly cinematic, allowing for fluidity of scene changes – just don’t expect the Frederick Ashton version.
Despite the departure from the classic score, Northern Ballet’s artistic director David Nixon’s conception of Cinderella is elegantly traditional.
Set vaguely at the turn of the 19th Century, this show has retained familiar motifs, such as the shawl dance, while incorporating novel scenes like an enchanting winter carnival and technically stunning ‘ice skating’.
Cinderella’s ‘fairy godfather’ is the wonderful magician (Hironao Takahashi), reminiscent of The Nutcracker’s Drosselmeyer, who conjures her transformation before our eyes.
In a dazzling scene, the magician explodes pyrotechnics while dressing Cinderella as an ice princess and creating a blinged-up sleigh pulled by three giant huskies.
It is a spectacle but I was even more impressed by the nightmarish return from the wonderland of the ball, when Cinderella meets characters from her past, including her younger incarnation (Rachael Gillespie). And as the clock turns, despite a set-back to ‘happily ever after’, the reassuring fairytale destiny eventually comes full circle.
by Tamzin Mackie