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Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) appears to be on a roll. No sooner had it made the welcome announcement of its autumn return to live performance, albeit in socially distanced conditions, than it announced it was streaming one of the most successful works in the company's repertoire, Cinderella.
With choreography by BRB's former artistic director and prolific choreographer David Bintley, and sumptuous designs by the incomparable John Macfarlane, this Cinderella is set to Prokofiev's powerful and eloquent score, played live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by music director Koen Kessels.
The Cinderella fairytale is well known, and Bintley and his production team don't much deviate from it. The work starts with the small family at the graveside, mourning the death of Cinderella's father; after which the young woman is left to the merciless whims of her vile stepmother and stepsisters.
Helped by her fairy godmother and the little animals of the forest to which she's always been kind, she attends the glittering ball at the palace transformed into a glamorous woman, and the prince promptly falls in love with her. At midnight the magic evaporates and she has to flee, leaving behind one glass slipper, which the prince uses to launch a search far and wide for the mysterious stranger who's won his heart.
Once found, they walk together into the sunrise to live happily ever after – of course!
While following the outlines of the fairytale, David Bintley makes his story a little grittier: Cinderella's downstairs world is very real, with its greasy piles of dishes, brooms and mops, and it contrasts with the unreal starry realm of her dreams. The stepmother is as vile as you expect her to be; the hapless ugly sisters, Skinny and Dumpy, however, are more ridiculous than truly nasty.
And the inexorability of time, both for this tale and for humankind in general, is denoted by Macfarlane's imposing clock suspended upstage and relentlessly marking every hour and minute.
This performance was filmed during the production's premiere run at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 2010, and has a cast to die for: Cinderella is the Australian-born Elisha Willis, who excels in story ballets and immediately grips the viewer with her combination of a delicate physique and fluent, detailed technique. Her Prince is Iain Mackay, handsome and naturally noble; the vile stepmother is a remarkable dance actor, Marion Tait, the company's assistant director.
And the whole company dances with engaging flair and commitment.
In short, and as one critic so succinctly put it: 'I wanted magic. I got magic.'
|Birmingham Royal Ballet, Cinderella streaming
|Online | MAP
25 Aug 20 – 01 Sep 20, First streamed at 19:00 Available for seven days after Dur.: 2 hours 30 mins