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REVIEW: Matthew Bourne's Cinderella by Fiona Campbell

Matthew Bourne’s Christmas productions at Sadlers Wells have become as popular a festive tradition as the turkey or a new X Factor single. And judging by the bulging audience numbers yesterday evening the newest addition to the popular choreographers repertoire, Cinderella, proved itself to be no exception.

Bourne’s Cinderella was first seen in the West End in 1997. His latest version has been completely revised to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Blitz. But of course, this is no ordinary Cinderella. True to Bourne’s signature choreographic style he has added a quirky contemporary twist to the classic fairytale. Set in London amidst World War Two, Cinders meets her Price Charming, a dapper RAF pilot and the two fall madly in love. However, tragedy strikes when the couple are prematurely torn apart by the Blitz.

In-keeping with the original story, all the familiar characters are present: the poker-faced evil step-mother and the pantomime step-siblings – all keen to muddy the course of true happiness, and the fairy godmother, or in this case fairy godfather.

As with all of Bourne’s productions, Cinderella is pacey and playful with subtle injections of humour present throughout the evening. For example when Cinders ends up in bed with her pilot and misses her curfew, or her sleazy step-brother’s numerous failed attempts to ‘try it on’ with poor Cinders.

Performed by Bourne’s resident company, New Adventures, the dancers combined upbeat energy with flawless academic clarity to perfection. Particularly notable were Michele Meazza’s portrayal of the scathing step-mother and Christopher Marney, as the Angel, with his exquisite jumps and elongated arabesques.

In a month overloaded with Cinderella productions, Bourne’s meticulous attention to detail, coupled with Lez Brotherson’s lavish set design, is sure to set his offering apart from the rest. Each scene, sequence and second of movement is tautly constructed, especially the Cafe De Paris dancehall scene where the dancers fragment and reform through a series of duets with kaleidoscopic fluidity.

Despite the occasional grey wartime tones, the show retained a glitzy Christmassy aesthetic, with Prokofiev’s original musical composition for the 1945 ballet adding just the right dose of emotional intensity.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella at Sadler's Wells runs until 23rd January 2010. Click here for more details.

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