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THE MUCH-LOVED Cinderella is a story that’s been retold from cradle to grave, with its origins going back beyond the Brothers Grimm as far as ancient Greece.
A favourite panto perennial in Britain, it’s an international folklore classic that’s been adapted for film, television, opera, musical and ballet and undergone countless varied interpretations since its first staging in 1804.
Yet it was Sergei Prokofiev’s score, premiered in 1945 at the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow, that became the mainstay of future ballet productions and gave choreographers free creative rein with the storyline.
This version, beautifully readapted for the English National Ballet by award-winning choreographer and director Christopher Wheeldon, was acclaimed when first staged in 2012 and here it’s daringly performed in the round for the first time, with more than 100 dancers.
The innovatory tone is emphasised in the characterisations of the ugly sisters who, as Wheeldon explains, are more ugly on the inside than the outside, while the fates and spirits take the place of the fairy godmother.
The results pay off and there’s no shortage of spectacle, with Julian Crouch’s set design and Basil Twist’s puppetry lending themselves superbly to the story’s dreamlike quality.
Colour projections conjure all the hues of the seasons in a most magical conclusion to the first act that sees spirit creatures — some with large conker shells for heads and long twigs for fingers and others with giant troll-like heads — marauding onstage.
In a breathtaking sequence, Cinderella is taken to the ball by horse-drawn carriage as she holds its canopy aloft with outstretched arms. Another sees Cinderella and the Prince, played gracefully by Alina Cojocaru and Isaac Hernandez, whirl down a corridor of dancers.
English National Ballet’s artistic director Tamara Rojo is memorably malevolent as the evil stepmother Hortensia and she plays drunk convincingly when she realises that her ruse to marry off one of her daughters to the prince is beginning to fall apart.
With productions as fantastical and on-point as this, you’ll never want to see the panto again.
Runs until June 16.
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