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Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, Birmingham Hippodrome - review and pictures

By Maria Cusine | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

It's Cinderella - but not as we know it.

Andrew Monaghan 'Harry', Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella' and the company. Photo by Johan Persson

And that's because this is a Matthew Bourne production. He's the cutting-edge choreographer who brings a unique approach to a classic story.

Michaela Meazza 'Sybil - Cinderella's Step Mother' and Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella. Photo by Johan Persson

Here he takes the famous fairytale of Cinderella and relocates it to the horrors of Blitz-ravaged London.

Andrew Monaghan 'Harry' and Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella'. Photo by Johan Persson

The traditional Fairy Godmother is replaced by a sleek white satin-suited male Angel and Cinders ugly step-sisters are joined by ugly step-brothers.

Liam Mower 'The Angel - Cinderella's Fairy Godfather' and Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella' . Photo by Johan Persson

The production opens with a Pathe newsreel, offering advice during war time before revealing the blacked-out house of Cinders and her step-family in a gloomy shades of grey setting.

The company. Photo by Johan Persson

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The darkly atmospheric scene is set, accompanied by Prokofiev's magnificent score.

Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella' and Andrew Monaghan 'Harry'. Photo by Johan Persson

Cinderella is a slave to her step family - and there's lots of them in this production. Madelaine Brennan is fantastic as Sybil, the drama queen step-mother, who brings equal measure of wickedness and glamour to the role - with a touch of Cruella de Vil.

Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella' and Andrew Monaghan 'Harry'. Photo by Johan Persson

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The prince is Harry, an injured and traumatised RAF pilot, a role played impressively by Andrew Monaghan. He stumbles into Cinderella's life, but is lost again amid the chaos of an air raid. Cinders, played by Ashley Shaw, dreams of meeting him again and dancing with him - in an enchanting scene which sees her dance with her pilot in mannequin form.

The company. Photo by Johan Persson

And of course Cinders does go to the ball - courtesy of the Angel, played perfectly by Liam Mower, who chauffeurs her to the venue on a motorbike. In this wartime world, the ball is based at London's Cafe de Paris, which was famously bombed in 1941. The devastated venue is transformed into the ball in a clever reverse-time sequence.

Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella'. Photo by Johan Persson

The glitzy Cafe de Paris scenes are a sharp contrast to the gloomy grey world of Cinderella's home and the rest of war-torn London. In fact, all the sets - from the house and ball scenes to the London Underground and the finale at Paddington Station - are stunning. Praise must go to set and costume designer Lez Brotherston who takes the audience effortlessly from each atmospheric scene to the next.

Andrew Monaghan 'Harry', Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella' and the company. Photo by Johan Persson

Ashley Shaw is a wonderful Cinderella, undergoing a character transformation from the reserved and bespectacled Cinders in the opening act to the elegant and leading lady of the ball in the second act.

Andrew Monaghan 'Harry' and the company. Photo by Johan Persson

And, amid the doom and gloom of wartime, Cinderella does get her happy ending.

Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella' and Liam Mower 'The Angel - Cinderella's Fairy Godfather'. Photo by Johan Persson

Hats off to Matthew Bourne. This touching wartime romance is a ballroom blitz.

*Cinderella runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday.

Maria Cusine

By Maria Cusine
@MCusine_Star

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