Review of Cinderella, New Theatre, Cardiff by Third Age Critic Barbara Michaels.

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Northern Ballet

Choreography, direction & costume design David Nixon OBE

Music Philip Feeney

Review by Third Age Critic Barbara Michaels.

Golden epaulettes, crystal chandeliers and Cossacks – all the flavours of Imperialist Russia bring glitter and glamour to David Nixon’s take on this new balletic version of the rags-to-riches fairytale by the brothers Grimm. While it retains the key features – put-upon-Cinderella, her cruel stepmother, heartless stepsisters, handsome Prince and, of course, the glass slipper – it probes deep into the back story and so becomes a much darker concept altogether.

For a start, there is the music. Philip Keeney, who composed the music for Christopher Gable’s version of the story back in 1993, has managed to pull a completely different and much more strident score out of the hat, echoing the disturbing elements – child abuse et al – underlying the story. Nixon gives us two Cinderella’s – the very young girl whose father, who dies tragically at her birthday picnic, is her idol – and the young woman who captures the heart of a Prince.

As young Cinderella, Michela Paolacci is delightfully ingénue, bringing delicacy and a touching vulnerability to the role,, but it is Lucia Solari, dancing Cinderella grown to womanhood, whose grace and fragility, coupled with an expertise in a role which requires her to dance en pointe for much of the time, who deserves a major accolade for the exquisite precision of her dancing. Nixon’s choreography ups the ante for the male dancers, giving Javier Torres, as the Prince who captures Cinderella’s heart, a chance to show his strength as a soloist. However, it is in the final pas de deux with Solari that he comes into his own.

Nixon has made some changes to the concept of the wicked stepmother, first seen here. as an adoring wife who, distraught with grief at the death of her husband for which she blames Cinderella for his demise, turns against her. Some wonderful choreography with its own poignancy and heartbreak behind the cruel façade is danced with understanding by Jessica Morgan, who shows a command of the stage that bodes well for her future. And what of the Fairy Godmother?

You may well ask. Nixon has replaced her with a male Magician, danced here by Tobias Batley (who doubles this with the role of Cinderella’s father), popping up when needed and throwing the occasional magic trick or firework to keep us on our toes, at times hovering in the background, in a manner which brings to mind the more sinister Baron Rothbart brooding over Swan Lake, in the ballet of that name. Although the Magician is, of course, a benign figure, the reference, although oblique, is there. It is referenced again in what is, perhaps, the most memorable scene in this innovative production – that of skaters gliding over an icy glistening lake, danced as always to a high standard by the Northern Ballet Company.

 

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