Saturday, 21 September 2019

REVIEW: Northen Ballet's Cinderella at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Cinderella is a fairy-tale we have all grown up with; a charming riches-to-rags-to-riches story of a young woman’s journey to happiness and love… Following the death of her husband, Countess Serbrenska (Cinderella’s Stepmother) enslaves Cinderella to a life of pot scrubbing and floor cleaning as she’s driven mad by grief. She continues to spoil her own daughters, Natasha and Sophie, but leaves Cinderella in the dark. Thankfully, there is magic in the air and Cinders is soon to be saved, and in turn, find true love and an inner strength any young woman should admire. 

Like many, I’ve known this story (or variations of it) since I was three years-old, but never before have I been moved by this tale like I was during this production. The Northern Ballet has created pure magic with this ballet; the spectacle, the costumes, the music arrangements, the dancers, the huge set pieces – it’s truly magical. A little Christmas-y for mid-September but you’ll hear no complaints for me in that regard.

Duncan Hayler’s set design is mammoth and features humungous pieces moving throughout the ballet. The hissing of pressure release in the hydraulics added to the industrial feel of the oppressive kitchen Cinderella is seen cleaning over and over again. In synchronicity with Tim Mitchell’s lighting design (which is utterly glorious), this show packs a thousand and one “wow” moments, most notably a sensational transformation from a rusty, metallic kitchen to a blinding white snow-scape and ice rink known as “The Crystal Lake”. This enchanting scene featured dancers sliding across the stage a la Tom Cruise in ‘Risky Business’ whilst still maintaining all the grace and poise they emulate whilst en pointe. Russian influence weaves through this ballet with tulle and fur-focussed costumes designed by Julie Anderson. The whole production is a visual triumph. 

Richard Pinner is the real magic man for this show, acting as the Magic Consultant for the Creative Team. His teachings are masterfully executed in particular by Mlindi Kulashe who plays the role of “The Magician” (as well as Cinderella’s Father – a multi-role which serves as a touching tribute to all little girls who see their fathers as mystical, magical men). Kulashe embraces humour and charisma with open arms as the audience marvelled at his flair. During an exquisite sequence in Act 1, we are thrown into the chaos of a Winter Market with circus acts aplenty; a juggler on stilts, an acrobatic twosome, our favourite aforementioned magician and … a grizzly bear. What a delicious feast for the eyes this was. 

In the titular role, we saw two performers: Rachael Gillespie as Young Cinderella
and Abigail Prudames as the older. Gillespie radiated youthful optimism and innocence. Even her fingertips evoked emotion and for the short periods she was on stage, I could not take my eyes off her. Prudames brings to life the clipped-winged Cinderella with compassion. She develops the character so beautifully, showing us a more strong-willed and empowered Cinderella towards the end of the show, especially during her internal conflict when it comes to Prince Mikhail (danced superbly by Joseph Taylor). Together, these two dancers are a romantics dream. 

The Northern Ballet, celebrating 50 years since its creation, has developed a stunning visual delight with Cinderella. Artistic Director, David Nixon OBE, reflects in the programme foreword, “… we honed in on the themes within the story, which although sweetened by magic and the fairy-tale ending, tells a story of a lonely and neglected young woman desperate to be loved”. This stunning ballet has real heart – it is true delight from start to finish. 

Christmas has come early this year and I couldn’t be happier. 

Review by Harriet Langdown

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: H18 Stalls | Price of Ticket: £52.90 plus Booking Fee via ATG
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