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Cinderella: Matthew Bourne's New Adventures

at The Lyric, Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Review by David Marston


THIS week tickets for Matthew Bourne’s new September production of his iconic Swan Lake have gone on early sale. Judging by the almost sell-out audience for his Cinderella this week, you’d be advised to book fast.


His take on the fairytale is a wholesale re-imagining of the story, set in the London Blitz of 1940.  It makes wonderful sense of the traumatised Spitfire pilot (dashing Will Bozier) as the handsome Prince while the ball is a glamorous night out at the Café de Paris in Piccadilly.


First staged in 1997, this welcome revival has a freshness that delights. Bourne mixes in newsreel from the time with a series of stunning sets (designer Lez Brotherston at his magical best) that move us from the black and white home of Cinderella and her dysfunctional family to the bleak blitzed streets to the glorious colour of the ball.


An evocative soundscape that accompanies Prokofiev’s dramatic score means that even before the curtain goes up we have the disconcerting sound of far off aeroplanes, growing closer. To a city such as Plymouth, where the Blitz is still a living as well as a folk memory, that’s an effective jolt: these were dangerous times when people seized love quickly: after all, tomorrow might not come.


It was good to see the creator of the piece in the theatre. Bourne is not one of those who sets up a show then swans off to Capri to live off the glory. And he should have been pleased as the quality of dance is often breathtaking.


Cordelia Braithwaite as dowdy, down-trodden Cinderella has enough spark when being bullied by her stepmother and menagerie of step brothers and sisters that her transformation into the darling of the ball makes wonderful sense.


Madeleine Brennan’s wonderfully despotic, murderous stepmother is an old lush who almost evokes sympathy while Paris Fitzpatrick as the Angel brings a sense of magic with a lightness of step and classical moves that give him an other-worldliness. A whole series of lovely characters brings out the ensemble strength here.


Audiences with a knowledge of older films will be delighted by references to such classics as Brief Encounter and A Matter of Life and Death. Often dark, but ultimately hopeful, this is a storytelling delight.


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