Matthew Bourne's Cinderella re-imagined in WWII London
- Claire Sawers
- 7 June 2018
Dreamy, Martini-fueled adaptation invokes Blitz spirit
After adapting Edward Scissorhands, The Lord of The Flies and The Picture of Dorian Gray for lavish dance shows in the past, British choreographer Matthew Bourne revives his 1997 production of Cinderella. This time Charles Perrault's under-loved and overworked heroine is scrubbing floors and getting dog's abuse in a fancy household in 1940s wartime London.
Cinderella's toxic family is made up of two catty stepsisters – stylishly dressed in shades of black lace and grey satin to add to the stage design's old-timey, black and white film feel, and a deeply creepy stepbrother who gets off on sneaking up behind Cinderella to sniff her hair. The stepmother, Sybil was inspired by one of Bourne's favourite actresses, Joan Crawford, and is danced with haughty, Martini-fuelled elegance by Madelaine Brennan.
The Blitz backdrop allows for gas-masks, victory rolls and gliding hospital screens to take part in the elaborate dance routines, where the underground Café de Paris (in reality badly bombed in 1941, with 34 deaths) morphs from a dreamy dancefloor and red glitter staircase into a pile of rubble, with the disco ball dangling, shell shocked among the carnage.
Cinderella's godmother in this version is a Fred Astaire-meets-Antifa angel danced beautifully by the long-limbed Liam Mower, gliding and swooping in some of the show's best sequences.
Bourne's version seems influenced by the Blitz-spirit of urgency, of partying while Nazi horror and air raid chaos unfurls above ground, and giving shelter to those seeking asylum; while Cinderella's Prince Charming is an injured serviceman who finds comfort from PTSD in his lover's arms.