Christopher Wheeldon’s revisionist take on Cinderella attempts to imitate the grand classical ballets of Imperialist Russia. But it’s a very pale imitation, in spite of being dressed to kill. Made in 2012, the year after his vibrant Alice in Wonderland, it shares many of the same choreographic gestures and tropes – especially in the titular character who resembles a cross between Alice and Juliet in her youthful, feisty innocence.
While the lovely Anna Tsygankova is a pleasure to watch she is not exactly stretched by the steps Wheeldon has produced. Looting various Prokofiev scores from both Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet, the music just about drives the narrative momentum but the scenes are piecemeal and the constant set changes tiresome.
Opening with the death of Cinderella’s mother, it races through scenes of Cinders and her putative Prince (Matthew Golding, Tsygankova’s real-life partner) growing up and dealing with recalcitrant parents (him) and stepsisters (her). In place of a Fairy Godmother we get a quartet of masked Fates and a tree that sprouts from the grave of our heroine’s mother. Wheeldon jumps from tragedy to comedy willy-nilly as grotesques pop up and romp around – including a pair of giant-headed Potato Men, long-beaked birds and what appear to be spider crabs. Don’t ask. I hadn’t a clue what they were doing there, either.
What little magic there is derives from Basil Twist’s inventive designs for the flowering tree and the coach and horses. Wheeldon’s choreography is uncharacteristically dull and uninspired, with the exception of lively steps created for the Prince and his best friend Benjamin (the Steven McRae-like Remi Wortmeyer). Cluster bombed by chandeliers, the ball scene is a complete mess with groups and couples exiting and entering without rhyme or reason. Having chucked in a bit of Fokine-like exoticism with a trio of national dancers (Russian, Spanish and Balinese), Wheeldon singularly fails to delineate them through dance. It’s all too much and nowhere near enough.