Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella theatre review: Will Cinders be reunited with her Prince during the Blitz?

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella theatre review by Katey Thompson.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella theatre review
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella theatre review – Credit: Johan Persson

The fairytale of Cinderella is a well-known one that has been seen in many guises on stage and screen and is perhaps more familiar as a festive pantomime. This production of the ballet is one that tears you away from the fairytale to the harsh reality of life in London during the Blitz. The curtain rises as a black and white Pathe film show you how to stay safe in an air raid, and you know immediately that this will not be a traditional retelling of the classic tale.

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The set and its monochromatic colour scheme are stark and have a cinematic air of the 1940s as the costumes are all black, white and various shades of grey – this feels more like a movie than a ballet. The cast is wickedly caricatured, the evil stepsisters were borderline alcoholics, the brothers were a wet blanket and a foot fetishist, and the Fairy Godmother was recast as a gleaming pearly white male godfather. Cinderella battles against the attention of her family and the fairy godfather becomes her savior when her prince, an injured RAF pilot is brought into her life. He leaves Cinders with his equivalent of the glass slipper – his RAF hat, and the audience with a sense of genuine affection between them, and the question ‘Will she find her prince in RAF uniform?’ She makes do with a mannequin, which springs to life like an animated puppet, one of many quirky and amusing scenes in the production. The lightness of these scenes is starkly contrasted with the drama of the Blitz. Cinderella becomes lost in the streets and is pursued by a menacing collective of masked men, barking like guard dogs, while bombs drop in the background.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella theatre review
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella theatre review – Credit: Johan Persson

The second act brings us into the Café de Paris, which is damaged during the Blitz raids. The Fairy Godfather raises the café from the ashes like a glitzy phoenix to set the scene for a stunning ballroom scene. The dramatic transformation of Cinderella from bookish drab gray girl to bejeweled princess is fabulous, a real wow moment, as if Grace Kelly had been brought back to life. The Pilot can’t believe his eyes, and their romantic kiss after dancing the night away is a moment of real beauty. The party ends with a direct hit on the club and the set collapses inwards while flames leap up all around, making it feel like a real raid. The final scene takes them to Paddington station creating a scene akin to a Brief Encounter, evoking a classic movie feel.

The production is a grown-up version of the fairy tale, with a reinterpreted storyline that fits well with the Blitz theme. There were some scenes that jarred a little but overall the production was a beautiful but accessible story – after all, everybody knows the plot.

Other than a minor problem with the train scene set, this ballet is very polished and perfected performance, as it has already completed a long run since its launch in the West End back in 2017.

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella theatre review by Katey Thompson, June 2018.

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is running at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until 23rd June 2018.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella t