The clock strikes midnight with Momoko Hirata as a distraught Cinderella watching the hands converge and Joseph Caley as the confused, unknowing Prince looking on. Pictures: Bill Cooper
Birmingham Royal Ballet
LIKE a fine wine David Bintley’s vision of the fairy tale classic has matured over time into a classic of its own.
Time flies, as Cinders knows only too well, and it hardly seems possible that we sat and watched the ballet’s world premiere way back in 2010, a gift marking BRB’s 20 years in the city incidentally.
It was a fine production then but time, and I suspect a few tweaks along the way, have made it even better, led this time by BRB’s own MoJo, with the delightful Momoko Hirata as Cinderella and the always youthful Joseph Caley making it all look so graceful and easy.
Love's sweet . . . doom: Samara Downs as gormless looking
Skinny, Marion Tait as Cinderella's hard-nosed stepmother and Laura
Purkiss as lumpy Dumpy
Love's sweet . . . doom: Samara Downs as gormless looking Skinny, Marion Tait as Cinderella's hard-nosed stepmother and Laura Purkiss as lumpy Dumpy
Bintley’s Cinderella is a much darker affair than we are used to, going back to fairy tales rather than panto with its ugly sisters and Buttons, a good reason to keep it away from the festive season.
It opens with the funeral of Cinder’s mum and the first hint that stepmother and stepsisters might not be happy families material.
The wonderful Marion Tait, BRB’s assistant director, does wicked stepmothers, or indeed any evil old crone or wicked fairy like no one else and reprises the role she created in the premiere with an arrogant haughtiness. Her dismissive glance towards the audience at the curtain call was a gem – an actor to the last.
With the stepsisters Bintley manages the near impossible trick of making them thoroughly nasty – they really are sadistic to poor old Cinders – yet also firm favourites with the audience with some glorious comedy.
Samara Downs, with what appeared to be bar coded legs, danced her way awkwardly through the night as Skinny while Laura Purkiss, with enough padding to advertise Michelin tyres, danced with all the flat-footed grace she could muster. Dancing under stage lights in a fat suit must make gym membership pretty well superfluous.
To dance badly so precisely and so well demands not only a real feel for humour but also great technique and ability from the pair. Their attempts to hone their skills with the bewigged and affected dancing master, danced by Mathias Digman, in the hopes of becoming belles of the ball are a comedy delight matched by their frantic and forlorn attempts to impress Rory Mackay as the unfortunate Major Domo at the ball. It gives us scenes that confirm Bintley as a master at choreographing comedy.
Central to the tale is the Fairy Godmother, seen first in rags when she appears by magic in Cinder’s kitchen, then as the elegant fairy conjuring up a magical coach with lizard footmen (Alexander Bird and Miles Gilliver) a frog coachman (Max Maslen) and mice pages (Lucie-May Oliver and Amelia Tyler) along with a silver, fairy coach.
A perfect match: Joseph Caley as the Prince and Momoko
Hirata as Cinderella
A perfect match: Joseph Caley as the Prince and Momoko Hirata as Cinderella
Miki Mizutani, Céline Gittins, Yaoqian Shang and Delia Mathews provide a dancing interlude as Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter while Yasuo Atsuji, William Bracewell, Brandon Lawrence and Tom Rogers add athleticism as the Prince’s friends.
The depth of the company can be seen in the strength of the corps, where the choreography demanded some very precise and synchronised movements with split second timing, all of which looked to be executed to perfection in some quite beautiful scenes.
This was a £1 million production back in 2010 and John Macfarlane’s designs range from the oppressive drabness of Cinder’s kitchen to the elegance of the imperial palace – including the symbolic giant clock with its working movement to signal midnight. There is a starlit dream sequence and a giant sun for our lovers to stroll towards, all decked out in outstanding costumes from rags to a glittering prince and princess.
And it is the Prince and soon to be Princess who end the story after two gentle pas de deux danced quite beautifully, including an impressive one handed lift, by Caley.
Caley and Momoko are making quite a name for themselves as a pairing to savour.
To music by Prokofiev, played by the excellent Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Philip Ellis, Cinderella is an easy to follow, familiar story and a wonderful, modern, classical ballet which has quickly become of age to become an audience favourite in the BRB repertoire. To 25-02-17
Meanwhile, just a thought to ponder though . . . if Cinderella in her godmother-given gladrags is dancing in pink, satin ballet shoes, how come when she rushes off into the night she loses a sparkly, silver slipper?