Northern Ballet artistic director David Nixon has created an Imperial Russia-themed Cinderella where magic and illusion lies at the heart of the production.
With glorious costumes, sharp, well-defined characterisation, special effects and choreography that makes the most of his talented ensemble and principles, he presents a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging evening.
There was an unfortunate technical glitch on the opening night where one of the many the impressive set changes went array necessitating an unplanned pause, but that aside this is technically an impressive piece of stagecraft, with budget-defying production standards, and some of the transformations certainly left me wondering “How do they do that?”
The transformation scene where the Magician provides downtrodden Cinders with a beautiful frock is the panto part of the story we all know and love. Here it is achieved without Cinderella making a quick dash to the wings to change costume while the kitchen range is niftily transformed into a sledge, pulled by white huskies that have been conjured up from three fur coats. Splendid stuff.
Duncan Hayler’s post interval set for the party scene sadly looks more like a plastic marquee than royal court but the elegant costumes make up for this slip and the show’s charisma returns for the snow falling finale.
Nixon moves away from Prokofiev’s music to a commissioned score from Phillip Feeney, played by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, which is light and refreshing with strong use of percussion giving the Russian-esque feel which is reflected in Nixon’s exotic choreographic touches.
This also allows for an imaginative ice skating scene and a charming winter fair populated by stilt walker, acrobats and, of course, a magician, who in this take becomes Cinderella’s “fairy godmother”.
The dance is strongly narrative and inventive and while it may not get the hairs of the back of your neck on end it is always clean, secure and perfectly executed.
Nixon also plays with the evil stepmother character, explaining her vileness to Cinderella by having the girl (wrongly) blamed for her father’s death which is really the fault of the two sisters. He also has the prince at first rejecting Cinderella when it is revealed the girl of his dreams is working in the kitchens – but he sees the error of his ways and love conquers all.
Lucia Solari is an elegant and refined Cinderella matched by Javier Torres as her Prince with great stage presence. Jessica Morgan retained my attention with every step she took as the stepmother while Tobias Batley similarly delighted as the Magician.
Northern Ballet’s Cinderella is at the New Theatre, Cardiff until Saturday (April 12). The box office number is 029 2087 8889