Friday, 25 October 2019

DANCE REVIEW: Cinderella - The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.


Christopher Wheeldon’s production of Cinderella, performed this evening at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, was yet another exhibition of talent, performed by a cast of over 40. His originality and narrative flair was showcased brilliantly in his interesting and unique interpretation of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella.

For the most part, the set was minimalistic with the opening scene featuring a central grave, for Cinderella’s late mother, and the emerging tree. The tree, made up of various sheets of cloth hosting projections, wilted and changed with the seasons creating a moving image representing life. The tree reappeared at many points in Cinderella’s trajectory symbolising her mother’s presences in her journey through life into adulthood. The entire opening scene is hazed by a screen covering the front of the stage to create an ethereal and dreamlike state indicating the tone of the overture and thus constructing the foundations for the unveiling story.

Throughout Cinderella’s performance she was accompanied by four chorus dancers dressing in blue and black rags. Their costumes created an interesting concept which I’m not sure I totally understood as they were electric blue and each man had silver metallic face paint. Nonetheless, they were very talented, acting as Cinderella’s wings lifting her. This was beautiful to watch. However, it worked best during the scenes in which the stage was lit by a blue wash and they blended in and Cinderella appeared independent. For the desired effect I feel black costumes would have been more successful.

Cinderella’s costume at the start of the play was a blue lace ragged dress which presented her as fragile, elegant and vulnerable, contrasting to the rich and vibrant dresses worn by her sisters. However, when she is transformed into her ball gown for the Prince’s dance she is dressed in the most beautiful gold costume supporting a lightweight canopy which created the shape of the carriage in which she rides to the ball. Combined with green moss wheel structures and dancers holding Ferris wheel styled horse heads, whilst Cinderella is raised by the four chorus dancers, this created a stunning visual which prompted a spontaneous audience applause. Pictures don’t do the image of her attending the ball justice, you must go and watch this for yourself. It is up there with those breath-taking moments in theatre which are like nothing else.

When Cinderella is prepared by the creatures of the forest led by the Fairy Godmother for the ball the entire ensemble is commissioned to individual elements of nature. The ensemble was made up of the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, a group of yellow birds and a collection of conkers. This was an interesting choice, particularly the incorporation of conkers, but somehow it worked in creating an idyllic fairytale setting. As they came together in the grand reveal of her new frock there was an almost magic buzz in the audience. This was enhanced by the intricate choreography and the dedicated attention to detail shown by each dancer.

The live orchestra in the performance was impressive providing a major element of a collaborative piece. For me, I felt the connection between the music and the dancers was a fundamental part of the story, creating a highly powerful narrative. There is always something so special about having a live orchestra as it creates a more organic atmosphere, specific to each performance.

There is so much more I could say about this performance, it was astonishing. It illustrated an inspiring level of talent and commitment through many years of hard work and to witness the product of that was an honour. Go and watch it!

Reviewer - Grace McNicholas
on - 23/10/19

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