There are three options when presenting a Christmas ballet, especially Cinderella… Appeal to those for whom this kind of theatre visit is a rarity – or indeed a one off. Fill it with glitz, glitter and every familiar trope and expectation of the dearly loved story, complete with opulent costumes and epic, grandiose sets. Second, take a fresh look at the narrative with a starker, darker, more real and arty interpretation, likely to please frequent ballet goers who tire of samey, traditional versions of well known classics they’ve seen so many times. Third, do something in between. Scottish Ballet’s 2018 festive offering takes this latter option and while it’s undoubtedly impressive, I fear the middle ground doesn’t quite leave us satisfied.
As with every Scottish Ballet production – certainly that I’ve ever seen – the dancers in Cinderella are incredible. The athleticism, strength, and ability to act while performing feats of agility, is astounding. Jamiel Laurence as the Grasshopper defies gravity, in stunning interludes set in the Fairy Godmother’s Rose Garden. Kayla-Maree Tarantolo as a step-sister and Barnaby Rook-Bishop as The Prince bring particularly enjoyable comedic moments to the piece. The production values are high. Every step, note (from the large accompanying orchestra), costume and scene change from beginning to end is slick, perfectly executed and carefully crafted. Despite any criticisms here surrounding the design and interpretation choices, this is high quality theatre with some charming alternative moments along the way.
The ball should perhaps be the breath-taking pinnacle of the Cinderella story. In this, the main characters are dressed in a mixture of incongruous styles. The rest of the ball attendees are dressed in identical outfits: men in dinner suits and ladies in drab and relatively plain dusky pink and black dresses. Cinderella arrives in a white cloak that looks like a 1980s toilet roll holder, to reveal a short tutu dress more in keeping with Swan Lake. The backdrop is presumably the lights of a cityscape, but looks more like a view of Heathrow’s runways at night.
Scottish Ballet has long since set their own bar high. Last year’s incredible production of The Nutcracker was a hard act to follow, as was their Highland Fling in the summer. The festive season brings people into theatres who wouldn’t usually attend, especially children and those experiencing these art forms for the first time. It’s an opportunity to encourage them to return and break the idea that ballet is elite or dull and I’m not sure this Cinderella really does that. But while this may not be their most exciting, thrilling or opulent production to date, it is a strong one nevertheless.
Photo courtesy of Andy Ross
Cinderella runs at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sunday 30th December 2018.