12 December 2010

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella at Sadler's Wells

Cinderella is a favourite show at this time of the year but it's not usually told like this.

Sadler's Wells' Christmas show this year is Matthew Bourne's version of Cinderella so you know that it is going to be innovative and exciting. You can also guess that it's a show that is going to tempt me to Darkest North London.

And getting there proved to be bit of a challenge. I allowed two hours for a journey that should have taken little more than one but got there with literally just a few seconds to spare.

First the bus was held up in Richmond due to some incident that the Police had to deal with, then all the trains to London were severally delayed to an accident at the level crossing at Barnes, and, finally, I got a taxi for the last leg because waiting for a bus was not working only to find the odd route the taxi took put me behind the bus that I was waiting for!

Ignoring the hassle of getting there, I like Sadler's Wells.

The reception area opens up quickly in to an inviting and comfortable space where you can move and mix easily and also treat yourself to something nice like a glass of champagne or an ice cream.

I got there too late to have any treats beforehand but there were two intervals so I was able to have both the champagne and the ice cream!

The auditorium is nicely modern, which means and attractive and functional space with seats that you can sit in for two hours and can see the stage from. Other theatres take note.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella retains the essence of the familiar story but is transplanted from a mythical fairy realm to a gritty London during The Blitz.

Other changes include some brothers for the ugly sisters and a complete absence of mice and pumpkins. The shoe remains. But this is a dance and so, like opera, the story plays a minor part in proceedings.

Cinderella (the dance, not the dancer) swirls around the stage with an exuberance of motion, lifting and sweeping limbs. Ensemble work is a real strength of Bourne's choreography and Cinderella shows why. Here the additional brothers and sisters help to fill the stage from the very start.

With Cinders playing a minor role initially, it is left to her exotically lush step-mother to shine above the crowd with humour as well as grace. She's probably meant to be evil but she looks too sexy to be bad. Cruella de Ville is misunderstood too.

There's a lot going on in the story and if I'd bought a programme or could find a synopsis on-line then I would tell you more about it but I did say that the plot does not matter that much and that is true.

What does matter is the dancing, the music and the staging all of which meld together to make a seamless whole that delights and stirs the senses. Like the champagne and the ice cream, the show is a real treat.

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