David Nixon’s production of Cinderella is a true spectacle and once again proves the amazing talent of the dancers at Northern Ballet. For those who have only seen the Disney adaption, this ballet offered a different version by setting it in Eastern rural Russia.
The oriental setting of the story starts in a yellow field with the sound of hounds barking in the distance. Cinderella’s father is shot whilst retrieving his daughter’s shawl and this causes Cinderella’s evil stepmother to blame the young girl for his death. Cinderella is treated as a slave until eventually she is bestowed good fortune in the form of a magic conjurer from the travelling circus (as opposed to the traditional fairy godmother). A highlight of the show is the closing scene of Act One where this magician transforms the poor house into a carriage bearing ‘Cinders’ in lights which drives off the stage. Set designer, Duncan Hayler, must be highly praised for this ingenious end to the first half.
Another quirk of the Russian setting was that it allowed Nixon to create wonderful ‘Frozen lake’ scenes where the dancers glided across the stage as if ice skating in winter coats. Nixon and Julie Anderson design fabulously intricate costumes which add to the Eastern feel of the ballet. Of particular note, is Cinderella’s smooth onstage dress change from rags to a fully sequinned ball gown- a feat managed through a cleverly designed outfit held together by magnets. Phillip Feeney’s commissioned music score also has an oriental rhythmic twist to complete the well themed narrative.
Special applause ought to be given to Northern Ballet’s lead dancer, Martha Leebolt, who played the role of the elder Cinderella. As always, Leebolt dances incredibly beautifully with the utmost control enabling her to move soundlessly across the stage. Her acting whilst dancing is outstanding and the audience join her on a whirlwind of emotions from sorrow over the loss of her father, to fear of her evil stepmother and ultimately love with the handsome prince (Tobias Batley).
My only criticism would be that after the Prince shuns Cinderella when he sees her as a poor servant, the choreography does little to convince the audience that Cinderella ought to forgive the Prince for this act of snobbery. Aside this, the ballet is an excellent piece of work and one of Northern Ballet’s finest over the last 3 years.
Written by Jeyda Heselton