Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella at the London Coliseum
Acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s full-length ballet, performed by the Dutch National Ballet at London’s Coliseum for a limited run, is a clever, contemporary take on the classic fairytale, Cinderella. Although this thoroughly grounded performance lacks much of the magic of the original, its dazzling finale delivers a beautiful happily ever after.
Making the production his own, Wheeldon fleshes out the narrative – moving the death of Cinderella’s mother onstage, adding a back story for Prince Charming (here Prince Guillaume, danced by Matthew Golding) and giving him a new plot line in which he pretends to be his own servant, swapping roles with his friend Benjamin (Remi Wörtmeyer). Despite the traditional costumes, there are several thoroughly modern moments: in the final, post-ball act, an ugly stepsister kicks her one-night stand out of the house, and Cinderella’s stepmother wakes up with a horrific hangover after embarrassing herself at the royal soirée.
The dark spectacle proudly owes more to the Brothers Grimm than to Walt Disney; Wheeldon picks out the gloomiest sections of Prokofiev’s score to achieve real depth in what could easily have been a light and fluffy affair. There are no glitter or glass slippers in sight in this rustic interpretation. The jovial Fairy Godmother is replaced with a tree sprung up from the tears Cinderella sheds on her mother’s grave, a real coup de théâtre complete with moving boughs and projections that flicker as if the leaves are dancing. At the end of Act I, the stage bursts to life as bird ladies, tree gnomes and strange creatures described on the cast list as “nut heads” fill the stage. There’s a hint of the bizarre to this ballet but an undeniable beauty too. Julian Crouch’s design is the perfect fit for Wheeldon’s earthy, cinematic vision. He creates a murky forest fantasy, followed by a glamorous ball with dark, sumptuous gowns, which make Anna Tsygankova’s dainty Cinderella – more woodland nymph than carefully coiffed blonde beauty – appear even more ethereal.
After a rich and vibrant Act II, beautifully choreographed and aesthetically pleasing, Act III finally delivers the magic the production was missing with some highly original staging. Although clunky in places, this gorgeous, alternative Cinderella has flashes of comedy and a high standard of dancing. Far greater than the sum of its parts, the whole production is enchanting.
Photos: Angela Sterling
Cinderella is on at the London Coliseum from 8th July until 11th July 2015, for further information or to book visit here.