Tuesday, July 21, 2015

CINDERELLA - Dutch National Ballet at the Coliseum

Over a week ago we continued our investigation into seeing new things with another visit to the matchless Matcham-designed London Coliseum.

Last time it was to see operetta with Mike Leigh's PIRATES OF PENZANCE but now it was to see Prokofiev's CINDERELLA performed by the Dutch National Ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon.  The production was first performed in Holland in 2012 and this was it's UK premiere.

It was odd to think I was listening to the same score that inspired Matthew Bourne's re-imagined version a few years ago that updated it to WWII London which was bold, imaginative and visually striking.  This was... pretty, and occasionally visually striking.

It was certainly sweepingly romantic but as usual with this style of ballet,  I found it's form to be a barrier stopping any enjoyment on my part.  Call it the Isadora Duncan in me.  I can appreciate the technique but not the emotion, I can appreciate the production but see no passion. 

I certainly could appreciate Julian Crouch's set and costume design, in particular the ball scene where the corps' costumes were various shades of blue, lilac and violet - Cinderella singularly flouting the dress code by wearing a little gold number. The settings were suitably palatial and pastoral for the scenes around the massive tree that grows by the grave of Cinderella's mother.  I also liked Natasha Katz' atmospheric lighting.

Basil Twist should also be mentioned for his clever - if slightly too long - transformation scene which closed the first act, Cinderella vanishing into the truck of the tree as a collection of nymphs, bird people and tree gnomes cavorted before she reappeared with a billowing white silk train which became the coach.

I can't say any of the dancers stood out as exceptional but they were all good at what they did.  Christopher Wheeldon's choreography was fluid and suitably traditional for this to stay in repertoires for a long time and I have to admit the big romantic pas de deux was very good.  He has just won a Tony award for his choreography for the Broadway production of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and I can certainly see how his romantic style would fit that production.

One moment which sticks out - more as an image than for any specific choreography - was the start of the third act when a row of palace chairs were placed along the front of the stage for various characters - including a wood gnome and the Prince's equerry - to sit out their turn at trying on the glass slipper.  When they all fled at the Prince's exasperation the chairs were all whisked upwards to hang in a surreal fashion over the rest of the scene.  It didn't add much to the story but was certainly visually arresting.

The Prince was featured a lot in this production, showing him growing up unhappy in the rigidity of court life, but it struck me that this seemed to borrow from Bourne's SWAN LAKE scenario and also that, in truth, the least interesting character in CINDERELLA is actually the Prince!

I'm glad I saw it as an experiment in dance but ultimately found that I had more of an emotional connection to Bourne's version of the ballet.

Sad to report yet another twat audience member in the row in front of us forgot he was sitting in a theatre when about 10 minutes into the production he turned on his mobile phone and proceeded to turn it on and off intemittently.  That is until a woman a few seats down from us gave him a swift jab in the shoulder.  He did turn it off but then was so enthralled in the action that, by the second interval, he and his two children were fast asleep as his wife sat and glowered at the stage.

And again, where were the bloody ushers to do the job they are paid to do?  Probably bitching about the Wicked Stepmother's port de bras on the stairs outside and picking their teeth with the used ticket stubs.

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