Cinderella Northern Ballet Festival Theatre

I’ve seen a few different ballet versions of Cinderella over the years including the original NBT production by Christopher Gable in 1993. David Nixon’s production is a very different interpretation to Gable’s, albeit it shares a composer in Philip Feeney. This time it is set in Imperial Russia, and the love story of Cinderella and her prince is caught between the huge divide of the world of princes and palaces and the world of the peasant class.

It starts on a beautiful summer’s day in the countryside where Cinderella and her father, stepmother and two stepsisters are enjoying a picnic. They are joined by their friends, Prince and Princess Mulakov and their son Prince Mikhail and the two young people are instantly attracted to each other. However, their blossoming romance is cut short following the tragic death of her father and her stepmother relegates her to the role of household servant. She is no longer an equal of the prince and, when she sees him at a fun fair, he doesn’t even recognise her.

All seems hopeless as she is confined to the kitchen as her stepsisters prepare for the grand ball. Enter the magician from the fair who transforms her into a beautiful princess and conjures up a coach and huskies to transport her to the ball. There she is reunited with Prince Mikhail and well, we all know the story – she flees from the ball and her lost slipper is the only clue to finding his true love. However, there is a twist, and when Mikhail finds Cinderella again he at first rejects her as she is of an inferior class and therefore not a suitable partner. Never fear, this time the lovers do not need the magician and his tricks – they are eventually reconciled and all ends happily ever after.

It truly is a magical production with magician Richard Pinner brought in to coordinate the tricks and special effects. The scene in the kitchen where Cinderella is transformed into a princess and the coach is conjured up is stunning and drew gasps from the audience. It is full of lovely touches like this – the funfair scenes with real acrobats and the skating rink scene with the dancers gliding across the stage. The sets are simple and uncluttered leaving plenty of room for the dancers in the countryside and ballroom scenes. The principal dancers are all excellent, with the standout performance for me being Martha Leebolt as the older Cinderella – her solos and pas de deux were delightful and she brings humanity to the role transcending the usual pantomime telling of the story. It is all complemented perfectly by Philip Feeney’s score and the playing of the small but perfectly formed Northern Ballet Sinfonia.

Another fine production from Northern Ballet Theatre, I would highly commend it. Cinderella isn’t just for Christmas, and it’s for all ages, young and old.

Irene Brownlee