Sunday, 20 October 2019

DANCE REVIEW: Cinderella - The Palace Theatre, Manchester.


This production of ‘Cinderella’ was originally created for The Dutch National Ballet in 2012, but has been restaged to celebrate the English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary season. It remains close to the original tale, although there is no fairy godmother, but the twist within this was exquisite to survey.

Julien Crouch’s set is magnificent in its opulence. The grandeur of the set fits majestically in a proscenium arch theatre and is a true spectacle to behold. From the overly large fireplace in Cinderella’s kitchen, to the archways and windows of the palace, it fills the space, and if anything makes it feel even more colossal. Transitions between sets are fluent and extremely visual. Projections are expertly used, both for setting the scene and for comic effect. A gauze at the front had visuals projected onto it, nothing new or revolutionary I know, but was highly effective in its use and complimented the production well.

Julian Crouch’s talent obviously knows no bounds, as he also designed the costumes. The costumes were sublime. The regal nature of the royal family in gold and red velvet were splendid. The waltzing blue-costumed courtesans gorgeous to observe. The most dazzling 'four seasons' in delicate and beautifully made attire. The one costume I was most disappointed in was Cinderella’s ball costume which lacked the grandiose quality compared with the rest.

English National Ballet chose Sergei Prokofiev’s score for their production of ‘Cinderella’. It is a beautifully rich score with lots of depth and an added element of darkness, which sits nicely with the idea of the ‘four fates’ that lead Cinderella on her journey. The dancers of the Four Fates intertwined beautifully both with the music and the choreography, adding a sense of foreboding and prophecy that I particularly loved watching. Their fluent movement of Cinderella around the space, aiding her dynamically was incredibly appealing to witness and I savoured their symbolic representation and choral qualities.

Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography was outstanding. His flair for both traditional ballet with elements of contemporary movement provided visual elegance and delight. The repetition of the jaunty hand movements of the clock hands, both by the Four Fates and the ensemble, foreshadowing the importance of time. Erina Takahashi’s performance as Cinderella was etherical and dazzling to watch. She appeared to dance as light as a feather and her stamina was admirable, an absolute joy, faultless in her technique. Joseph Caley as Prince Guillaume was commendable and praiseworthy in his portrayal and complimented Takahashi well. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Alison McWhinney and Katja Khaniukova as the stepsisters. Although not ‘ugly’ on the outside, the clever choreography displays their grotesque nature at certain points and they added some delightful comedic moments. The artistic director of the English National Ballet, Tamara Rojo, takes on the role of the evil stepmother with considerable panache. A cruel and malicious character at one moment, to a hungover and amusing character the next. As an audience member I was enthralled with her wonderful portrayal and sought her out whenever she took to the stage.

This was one spectacular performance with an abundance of memorable moments: dancing horse chestnuts, tree gnomes and a pumpkin carriage conceived by a lot of fabric and a wind machine, to name but a few. Act one was definitely the highlight for me and I was certainly blown away with the sumptuousness of it all. A first-class performance.

Reviewer - Catherine Owen

on - 17/10/19

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