It’s not the fairytale you remember. British director and choreographer, Sir Matthew Bourne’s dark, wartime ballet is a 3-act epic, set during the turbulence of the London Blitz in 1940. This time around, Cinderella (Ashley Shaw) toils under a vampily drunk stepmother (Anjali Mehra), two taunting stepsisters (Stephanie Biller, Daisy May Kemp), three stepbrothers (Jackson Fisch, Dan Wright, Stephen Murray) and an equally tormented, wheelchair-confined father (Danny Reubens).
Already sounds radically different? Don’t worry, some familiar elements are intact. There is still a fairy angel — albeit gloriously and flamboyantly male now (an all grown-up Billy Elliot, Liam Mower) — as well as the handsome suitor — but instead of Prince Charming, you’re getting a ruggedly handsome, shell-shocked RAF pilot (Andrew Monaghan). Yes also to the indispensable slipper, the countdown to midnight, and the glittering ball. But that’s about all the allusion to Disney you’re going to get. This, you see, is a Cinderella for grownups.
Bourne’s version is complex, and may even leave the audience confused at times, but that’s only because it’s unfaithful to the source and plays with expectations. The trick is to stop comparing it to the fairytale and to immerse yourself in this noir drama as if learning the narrative anew through pure music and dance. If fairytales indeed emulate greater truths, are metaphors for human behavior, then think of this as an unmasking.
Ashley Shaw and Andrew Monaghan in Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella.” Photo by Johan Persson.
Sergei Prokofiev’s orchestral music, Cinderella Opus 87, was composed during the blitz, and rhapsodically captures the drama as well as the comedy. It’s effectively combined with wartime sound effects (warplanes, sirens) thanks to sound designer, Paul Groothuis. Period costumes and set design by Lez Brotherston lend the production a stunningly authentic look, and the lighting design by Neil Austin completes the cinematic tableau of realism.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is playing at CTGLA Ahmanson through March 10th. Tickets HERE.