Cinderella is a fairy tale with so many different interpretations around (often depending on whether it is an Eastern or Western European version), that is must be difficult to come up with something new and original on the work. Christopher Hampson has, however, managed this in wonderful style to put his own unique stamp on the classic tale in this work that was originally produced for The Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2007. Combining with Christopher’s own choreography and artistic vision is amazing design work by Tracy Grant Lord (the original costumes from 2007 were shipped half way round the world for this show), and together the result is just a beautiful piece of work.
Between them, Christopher and Tracy have created a wonderful almost Art Nouveau fairy tale landscape for the dancers to perform in and truly brought a fairy tale to life on stage.
Dancing the principal role of Cinderella is Bethany Kingsley-Garner, and it is not only a wonderful dance performance, but also a wonderful acting performance. Christopher Hampson’s Cinderella is not a cartoon figure but a real person who has lost her mother early in her life and found her whole world changed. The choreography reflects this, and Bethany interprets this in great style and gives the audience a real Cinderella with real emotions.
Playing the two evil step-sisters are two of my favourite dancers with Scottish Ballet – Sophie Martin (short step-sister) and Eve Mutso (tall step-sister). Here in this tale of Cinderella, Christopher has given a comic (almost pantomime) role to the step-sisters and both dancers seem to be having so much fun with their roles. For dancers of this standard, pretending not to be able to dance in parts must be so difficult. Eve Mutso just seemed so into her evil step-sister role on stage, and got a chance to display that, along with great skills as a dancer, she also has amazing timing as a comedienne.
Rounding off the female household is a fine character performance as the step-mother by Sophie Laplane.
Nicholas Shoesmith as Cinderella’s father does get some touching parts to play as he struggles to cope with the loss of his first wife and life with his new wife and step-daughters. In Cinderella though, the father never usually gets to develop as a character much and it is nice to see that Christopher Hampson has opened up this part enough for some real emotions to show through.
Along her journey to finally meeting her Prince, Cinderella meets her Fairy Godmother (Araminta Wraith) and a Dancing Master and wonderfully costumed Grasshopper (Both played by Jamiel Laurence). Araminta as the Fairy Godmother gets a lot of stage time in this production and performs the role in great style – aided by wonderful costume design from Tracy Grant Lord. This Fairy Godmother is not the stereotyped one we are used to, and the question of “is this maybe the spirit of Cinderella’s mother looking after her?” is just left open to audiences’ own interpretation.
No Cinderella story is complete of course without a Prince, and that role is performed by Christopher Harrison in a very strong performance. Together with Bethany, a fairy tale is brought to life on stage as they give the audience exactly what a fairy tale ballet should look like.
There were a lot of little girls (and a few boys) in the audience tonight, and I think this production was pretty much what many of them dream that being a ballet dancer will be like and the dance schools around are probably going to see a lot of business as they try to enter their ballet fantasy worlds. This itself is possibly where the real magic of a production like this lies – in inspiring a new generation of dancers from the young audiences out there, and maybe if they have the talent and determination to succeed some of them might be on stage in later life performing this ballet. After all, this is just a slice of ballet magic, and Christopher Hampson’s Cinderella is going to be around for a very long time setting benchmarks for other productions to follow.
Sometimes with a ballet, you can focus so much on the dance that the music gets missed out a little, but in this case, the music by Sergie Prokofiev is just so integral to the story and the dance so wonderfully choreographed to it that dance and music seem fused together.
Scottish Ballet at the Festival Theatre is as much a part of Christmas as Christmas itself now, and it is always a treat to go and see their productions. This one though is something extra special.
One little piece of advice for audiences though...the story actually starts a little before the curtain rising at the start and after the intervals, so try not to miss it.
Review by Tom King