Christopher Hampson takes us all to the ball in this open-hearted and funny ballet
There’s nothing quite like a sparkling fairytale to make you come over all Christmassy. In Scottish Ballet’s new Cinderella – choreographed by artistic director Christopher Hampson – vintage glamour is dusted with glitter then heaped with a good helping of physical comedy to create a piece as elegant as it is charming.
Dark beginnings see us join the story at the funeral of Cinderella’s mother, but even at this maudlin outset Tracy Grant Lord’s designs drip beauty. Later her art nouveau giant tree in dusky Tiffany-lamp colours, grown from the tears of grieving Cinderella, is the perfect counterpart to the pristine Regency knot garden marked out in fairy lights behind the Prince’s Palace. Add to this costumes conjuring retro fashions from Edwardiana to mid-20th century chorus girls, all shot through with jewels, and you have a feast of a spectacle.
That’s not to say however that the piece is sugar-coated. In fact Hampson’s production feels decidedly more fairytale than pantomime. But the star here is the dance, and refreshingly there is a lot of it. Compared to his 2013 Hansel & Gretel, or recent Edinburgh-hosted Cinderellas by Ashley Page and Alexei Ratmansky, character work in this version feels better entwined with the choreography, as opposed to being crafted around it. From a mawkish little jig by two craven dressmakers, to each step sister’s attempt to shine at the ball, slapstick and personality are rooted in dance and brilliantly timed.
It’s easy to see why Eve Mutso and Sophie Martin – two of the company’s Principals and brightest stars – have been tasked with the sister roles. Perfect foils for each other, Mutso’s brazen ‘tall’ sister prowls the dancefloor, an unholy cross between a bull and a panther, while Martin’s adorably gormless ‘short’ sister buffoons her way into our hearts. Less cruel, more idiotic, they are sympathetic compared to most depictions, working well to keep the show in the Christmas spirit.
But productions of Cinderella stand or fall on their prima ballerina, and here Bethany Kingsley-Garner is beautifully cast. As open-hearted and earthy in her peasant clothes as she is poised and sophisticated in a tutu, she brings out the best in Christopher Harrison’s Prince. For a tale with such a decidedly unfeminist core to it – from its evil stepmother to its happy ending – it’s a ballet that pushes its female stars to the front, and allows each to show off a banquet of skills.
Scottish Ballet’s orchestra – conducted by Richard Honner – is not so much the icing but the fruit and brandy of the cake, and their rich performance of Prokofiev’s swooning filmic score, with its wandering Slavic melodies, is majestic.