At one point in her life, every girl has dreamed she was Cinderella. Who wouldn’t want to be swept off her feet by Prince Charming (this girl is surely still waiting for a call), have a fairy godmother to save the day and beautiful shoes? Okay, maybe the Cinderella tale is a little dated, but there is still something deep inside us that longs for that fairy tale, for a bit of romance and magic. Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella at the London Coliseum certainly has that – and it adds a darker spice of fate and nature that makes this ballet such a warming, wonderful spectacle.
We are all familiar with Perrault’s version (as used by Disney), with the fairy godmother and the pumpkin coach. But Wheeldon has brilliantly chosen the Brothers Grimm’s darker version, responding to the darkness in Prokofiev’s music, and swapped the godmother for a tree growing over Cinderella’s mother’s grave. The tree becomes her spirit as four fates emerge from it and help Cinderella through life, and her transformation for the prince’s ball comes from the spirits of the tree and all the weird creatures that inhabit it. Wheeldon has also added a more deepened characterisation of the prince with a childhood sequence, a best friend and a mistaken identity as he meets Cinderella for the first time. Julian Crouch’s design is nothing but mesmerising as he creates a fairy tale world that’s both exceptionally beautiful and very real – Basil Twist’s design for the tree is a reminder of reality and the element of grief and loss echoing throughout the story. His tree and carriage designs are imaginative and enchanting and provides much stronger magic than any fairy godmother could produce. With Daniel Brodie’s video projection and Crouch’s costume design, it is a rich visual world creating fairy tale magic that sweeps its audience away.
Wheeldon’s choreography is charming and inventive as ever and he proves why he is one of the leading choreographers today. It is fluent and always entertaining, hauntingly beautiful at times, and the dancers have all managed a very difficult task – they have all created rich characters that have inner lives and character traits that manifest themselves in their movements, and which make the piece less polished and more real. It is very refreshing and intriguing to watch. Anna Tsygankova is wonderful as the graceful and kind Cinderella and Matthew Golding’s Prince Guillaume has charm and energy that match her beautifully. The stepsisters (Wen Ting Guan and Nadia Yanowsky) are hilariously characterful and stepmother Hortensia’s (Larissa Lezhnina) drunken dance is just priceless. The Dutch National Ballet is charismatic as a company and truly breathe life into Wheeldon’s piece. They show a wonderful sense of humour at times, which really adds to our appreciation of this performance. The four fates and the darkness in this ballet are the flavours that make it so delightful – it’s a special treat for all, a truly beautiful and romantic experience that I’d urge anyone not to miss.
Cinderella is playing at the London Coliseum until 11 July. For tickets and more information, see the ENO website.