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The Liverpool Empire
26th – 30th April 2011

Director: Matthew Bourne adapts the story of Cinderella into dance.
Composer: Prokofiev
Producer: New Adventures
Cast Includes: Ashley Shaw, Christopher Marney, Sam Archer, Madelaine Brennan


Promo for Cinderella by Matthew Bourne


You’re sitting down relaxing when you hear the noise, that drone overhead that can only mean one thing….. bombers. It’s London, the year is 1941 and devastation is all around as the blitz continues to decimate our capital. The near future is an unknown entity that we may never see, so tonight we ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’.  But this dream it seems is still out of reach for Cinderella, hindered by her family who see her as little more than a servant unworthy of respect, payment or recognition: there’s no escape for her.

As the opening bars of Prokofiev’s score fill the theatre it sends a tingle through my entire body, I am about to watch something extraordinary. Through the first scene we are drawn in to the story as we witness the family’s attitude towards Cinderella, when suddenly the mood changes and the Angel makes his appearance. Christopher Marney brings a magic to the performance as the Angel as he glides, spins and leaps across the stage to rapturous applause. The choreography is so complex, yet fits perfectly with the powerful dancing and the incredibly expressive music.

Ashley Shaw’s Cinderella comes alive when she dances with her Pilot Harry, played by Sam Archer. Together they fly around the room, always touching as if in this time of loss they simply cannot bear to let go.  Events separate them: amid the chaos they race to find each other through scenes of wardens, gas-masked civilians panicking in the air raid, pilots flying above. A feeling of terror and confusion is created, through the non-stop whirling movement of the dancers against the dramatic backdrop of burning buildings and blacked-out streets, while the music surges on.

Act 2 begins and ends with the devastation of the Cafe de Paris: the glamorous set is strangely contrasted with the grey, quite drab colours of the women’s’ dresses and the men’s’ uniforms. The forced gaiety of the dancers can be seen in the strained expressions and urgent dancing. The dark tones of the music perfectly augment this.
In Act 3, the scenery has to be seen to be believed. So different from a traditional performance, it conveys the noise and smoky atmosphere of underground station, the strange and rather threatening people who come across one another late at night at Embankment. How will the Angel help the star-crossed lovers meet?

This re-worked version of Cinderella is so perfectly convincing that it’s hard to believe that the music, story and choreography were not created together. 

Nina Lloyd Jones



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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