Notes on... Matthew Bourne's Cinderella

The last production we watched by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures was The Red Shoes and it was arguably the best thing to happen to us in 2017. So expectations were preeeetty high for Cinderella, Bourne’s piece that was originally performed in 1997 and is now touring the country.
Set during WWII in rainy, grey London, the atmosphere is set with air raid warnings cut into the Prokofiev score before the curtain goes up. As original bombing footage is projected onto the backdrop, we’re quickly aware of the inherent dangers and the importance and fleetingness of time, echoing the urgency to come with Cinderella’s panic at midnight.
Bourne has worked with set designer Lez Brotherston to create some impressive stages and this is no different.  The equivalent of the revolving stage in The Red Shoes’ is the ill-fated Café de Paris jazz club that seamlessly becomes a hellish, war-torn landscape. The evocative war-time scenes give a sense of drama and glamour to what could otherwise be a tired, well-known story. A stylish angel dressed in a white suit is the updated fairy godmother that oversees proceedings and (spoiler alert) intervenes to help our protagonist eventually find love.
The bright, showy pieces are classic Bourne and absolutely spell-binding at that. His productions can’t help to dazzle and there are truly LOL-worthy moments.  But the scenes with real weight and emotion are those that explore the fleetingness and fragility of life. Bourne is a master at taking heavy concepts and turning them into glittering showstoppers and Cinderella is no different.