Enchanting waltzes, beautifully designed 1940’s fashion and a dreamy romance; it can all be found in Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella. Inspired by Prokifiev’s heavenly, yet eerie ballet, composed during World War II, the audience is easily transported back to a period where time was of the essence, for no one knew whether they would survive the night.
I was never one to understand the language of dance, which made me apprehensive to attend the ballet. Once it began, however, I was mesmerised by the ability of the dancers to portray emotion, and act without the need of words. They were nothing short of flawless in the way they seemed to effortlessly flow on stage in an erratic synchrony that I had never seen before, and to be able to understand it all with ease made me feel like I was part of the storyline too.
The waltzes were not the only actions to flow seamlessly, as the set changes also occurred in such a way. These were imbedded within the waltzes and happened so naturally at times that they passed unnoticed until they were highlighted and served their purpose in the next scene. Throughout the show, I got the impression of being within a dream, which I suspect was the intention of the director along with Bourne’s intention of making it look like a 1940’s film.
“All the dancers changed at least five times”
Something that helped Bourne’s intention come to life were the costume designs that played a big part in the show. All the dancers changed at least five times and the costumes seemed to help bring out the different characters, as some were tailored differently than others to portray status. My favourite part of the waltzes, however, was looking out for peculiarities happening behind the main dancers, as actions occurred on stage in a hilarious manner.
This use of comedy wrapped within the brutal context of war created a balance that resembled reality, and this made the show more enjoyable as different emotions were felt in a short time but also seemed somewhat familiar to the audience and no one could take their eyes off the stage. Although there were efforts to remain true to reality within the show, there were also many fantasy themes such as day-dreaming sequences and the idea of being controlled by a higher power, using mirroring within the waltzes & sepia toned spotlights.
The one thing I did not enjoy about the show was that there was no live orchestra, I enjoy looking at the musicians whenever I attend a show and feel like it is part of the experience, therefore the lack of live music in this performance was disappointing. However, when reading the programme, I realised that this had been done intentionally because Bourne wanted to make the audience feel as if they were in a cinema. This explains the use of rounded sounds, with speakers surrounding the theatre and the music coming from all angles rather than just from the centre of the room.
“It all seemed as if we had completely stepped within a silver screen film”
Bourne’s love for the silver screen evidently had a big impact on the show, as lighting and sound effects were used to portray what we now know as vintage cinematography, such as the rolling sound of film and vintage special effects like pixelated rain. These are all things that have been improved upon in our day and age, but, the use of these olden resources served to really engage the audience as it all seemed as if we had completely stepped within a silver screen film. Also, his want to pay tribute to London in the show came through well, because it made it seem like a retelling of history which created an atmosphere of longing for old times in the audience, something that was very smart and touching.
Overall I thought the show was brilliantly crafted, engaging and progressive (LGBTQ+ and strong women had a big role). I came out feeling nostalgic for a time in which I never lived but also mesmerised by the beauty of it all; feeling a little bit closer to the era. Bourne’s Cinderella is definitely worth a shot if you enjoy history are passionate about the vintage atmosphere and ballet of course.
Images courtesy of Nottingham Theatre Royal Webpage