When Midnight Strikes

Cinderella was my favourite story as a little girl, and even now the live action Disney version is near the top of my go-to film list. I’ve been having a similar love affair with New Adventures for the last five years, having been introduced to Matthew Bourne’s work through The Car Man.

As a student I have to limit the amount of money spent on theatre tickets, but was still gutted to miss the return of Cinderella to Sadler’s Wells. The filming and subsequent broadcast of the show on the BBC (Boxing Day) therefore felt like an extra special present, and one which I have been enjoying even more since returning to uni and finding the time to sit down and watch it without interruption.

Similarly to An American in Paris, the story of Cinders and her prince has been moved to World War Two London. Bourne’s approach to reusing old stories in new ways is always incredibly exciting to watch, with the cataclysmic ball set in the soon-to-be-destroyed Café de Paris a clever way of joining and separating the two lovers.

I love classical ballet, spending more than I should on Royal Ballet DVDs (which feels a less luxurious expenditure than tickets) and prizing our annual visit to see The Nutcracker as the highlight of my festive season. However, placing more pedestrian dance against the sumptuous Prokofiev score allows for beautifully clear storytelling that sits comfortably between a dance performance and a play.

The idea of time running out; quick, deep love but with an urgency. I spent a long time listening to Prokofiev’s music and, once the idea of the Blitz had come to me, I could hear bombs going off.

Matthew Bourne, 2010.

The fluidity of movement provided by Ashley Shaw as the eponymous Cinderella and Andrew Monaghan as her Pilot Charming both individually and, most crucially, together, is staggeringly impressive and makes time, such an important element in this love story, simply fly. Shaw’s solo number with the mannequin is simultaneously funny and touching – sense of a character breaking free of her confines and demonstrating the spark that makes her subsequent actions totally believable.

Liam Mower turns the role of the ‘fairy godmother’ into a suave male angel, orchestrating both the living and the dead to keep pushing Cinderella forwards, his slick movement and stylish characterisation embodying the character perfectly. The addition of stepbrothers to the step-brood could add a heaviness to the plot, but instead provide comic lightness help to balance the relocation of the piece: the devastation of war is quite dark enough on it’s own without an unforgivable family.

The ingenuity of Lez Brotherston’s sets stand out even on screen (a translation that often fails to compute completely) from the drab interior of Cinderella’s house to the blinding searchlights of a smoking London. The reduction of the glitzy Café de Paris (based on the real life atrocity of 1941) to smouldering rubble is spectacular.

With nods (as ever) to classic, iconic films and the overarching themes of love and light in times of darkness make this a truly enjoyable production for both dance lovers and those new to the art.

Cinderella shall go to the ball. You should too.

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