Sunday, 26 July 2015

'Cinderella' at The Coliseum

A couple of weeks ago I went to see a production of 'Cinderella' by the Dutch National Ballet at The Coliseum. I've never seen a 'classical' ballet so, after loving the ballet suite of 'Woolf Works' a couple of months ago at the Royal Opera House, I thought it was time to try one. And why not start with a fairy tale that we all know, a classic and timeless fairytale of love and how the under-dog (if you see what I mean) becomes triumphant? Cinders isn't a dog, obv.

It's largely the tale you know but with added Prince. Why do we need to know about the Prince's childhood and his friends? I can only surmise that it' because the prodiction needs a leading male role and that must be the Prince so he needs a larger role. But I don't care about the Prince, I care about Cinders so those scenes with the Prince were almost an annoyance. It's fine when he grows up and starts courting Cinderella but I don't really need to see him growing up.

You know the tale of Cinders, how her mother died and her father married again, a wicked step-mother and step-sisters, how she got to the ball and left her glass slipper, how the Prince eventually tracked her down and married her. Yes, that's all there, but it all about we get to that final scene. We see the mice periodically throughout the first half but they come into their own in the final scene, the magical transformaton into a coach and horses to take Cinders to the ball with her cape billowing out behind her in the coach. That scene was one of the highlights and was certainly magical.

We are invited to the ball, to the gloriously blue costumes of the dancers into which Cinders crashes in her silver and gold finery. No wonder the Prince was smitten. They dance and they twirl and then Cinders must make her way home before the magic evaporates as it inevitably must do. And in doing so she leave behind a precious glass slipper that the Prince can use to try on everyone who fits the bill of being 'female' to see if they are his beloved Cinders. You'd think he'd be able to use his eyes to recognise her but that would be churlish to suggest.

We then have the madatory scene about all and sundry trying on the glass slipper including wood gnomes and Thai princesses who weren't at the ball in the first place but why let spoil a good scene? That's an oddly sexist scene - why would everyone want to marry the unknown Prince? He might be an utter bastard for all they know. But tradition is tradition and that is that everyone must try on the glass slipper, including the ugly sisters, until he finally finds Cinderella and they get married under the tree that's planted above her mother's grave. O how sweet.

So there you have it, the bellet version of the fairytale we all know of Cinderella. It was fun enough and all that, full of glamour and glittery costumes, lots of movement and music but... so what? The family with three children in front of us all fell asleep other than the mother. That's a message I think, although it may be more about the attention span involved in popular culture these days.

I enjoyed the spectacle of it all but not really the artistry. What was missing - or rather, what didn't I see? I enjoyed some of the set pieces and loved the bits out in the woods when Cinders danced with the dryans and woodlands folk but the courtly scenes? naah. Some of it was exhuberant and life affirming and some of it wasn't. Maybe I need to see another ballet?

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