Cinderella (Northern Ballet) – Review – Leeds Grand
By Gail Schuster, December 2019
David Nixon’s ballet is a beautiful reimagining if the classic tale, set in the deep Russian winter. It contains many of the elements with which we are familiar but there are also changes to delight the audience. The version of Cinderella we know and love was first recorded by Charles Perrault in 1697, but the story is far older than that and different forms of it may be found in many countries and cultures.
By setting the show in winter, Nixon is able to treat us to a wonderful ice-skating scene at a shimmering crystal lake where couples ice dance gracefully across the stage and where the heroine is able to wow the other skaters with her ice-skating abilities, following which she receives the coveted invitation from the palace.
The sets, beautifully designed by Duncan Hayler, capture an idea of Russia most notably in the sumptuous ballroom scene, which is Fabergé-inspired and the winter market backdrop which has buildings with the onion domes that we associate with Moscow. Then there’s the grey, dispiriting kitchen where poor Cinderella spends her days. The windows are placed high in the walls, the furniture a little oversized, all adding to the oppressive feel of the room.
At the back of the kitchen is a range, the only hint to its other form being a sparkling gold base. This symbol of drudgery transforms into a sleigh with her name lit up on the side; in a manner that jars with the rest of the production. However, the animals which pull the sleigh are not created from mice but from something else entirely! This is a lovely scene where a shabby dress transforms into a sparkling ballgown before our eyes in a way which is truly magical.
“Costumes are wonderful”
The score used for this production was written by Philip Feeny, who also wrote the music for the 1993 Christopher Gable version of the ballet. It is emotional, reflecting sadness as well as joy, climbing from the depths of Cinderella’s despair to her happiness at the end of the show. At times it too has a Russian feel and a noticeable use of percussion instruments, which add texture and vibrancy to the auditory experience.
Nixon’s costumes are wonderful and capture the hierarchy of Russian life from peasant women wearing headscarves to the scarlet and gold braided jackets of the elite men attending the Prince’s ball. Cinder’s saviour is not the traditional fairy Godmother, but a magician performed adeptly by Matthew Topliss. He looks every inch the travelling magician, wearing a turban, a silver coat lined with blue material with stars and moons on it, and a gold shirt and necktie. She first meets him at the market with several other circus artists and then again at the crystal lake when she helps him stay upright in a quietly humorous and charming pas de deux.
Dominique Larose, portrays the role of the badly treated stepdaughter exquisitely, capturing the young woman’s vulnerability and Antoinette Brooks-Daw dances the part of her bullying stepmother with emotion. The rest of the company perform beautifully from the busy market to the vibrant ballroom scene.
This is a show that all the family can enjoy – one which brings sparkle and magic to the dark winter days.
images: Emma Kauldhar