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Birmingham Royal Ballet, Cinderella Lowry, 1 March 2017, 19L30
This will be a very short post because I have just driven across the Tops through a snowstorm and I have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to attend a conference and site view somewhere just outside Preston. However, I could not go to bed tonight without congratulating Birmingham Royal Ballet for their performance of Cinderella at the Lowry this evening.
I've followed this company from the time it was known as the Touring Company and I have seen many of its shows. Its dancers always dance well but never have I seen them dance better than they did tonight. Mancunians don't often stand up for anyone - especially not Brummies who have the effrontery to call themselves the second city - but they did tonight. That ovation was richly deserved.
I like everything I have ever seen of Bintley's choreography but I think Cinderella is the work I like best. I might add that I am a bit of a connoisseur of Cinderellas having seen many different versions but this is definitely one of the best. It opens on the funeral of Cinderella's mother. Her father tries to console her with a mighty hug but they are separated by the woman who is soon to be his second wife. Cinderella is left sobbing at the graveside. Poignant or what!
The new wife, danced by the magnificent Marion Tait has two grown-up daughters of her own. One is all skin and bones (Samara Downs) and the other is fat and greedy (Laura Purkiss), Skinny and Dumpy bully Cinderella (Jenna Roberts) mercilessly. Happily, the girl's got spirit and would only stand so much. At one point she set about her tormentors with a broom handle and put them to flight. I started clapping and was surprised that nobody joined me. She held her own again when Skinny and Dumpy tried to grab her little box of mementoes. Of course, the two bullies were backed up by their mother who was as cruel as Aunt Reed in Jane Eyre. If the first scene was a study of grief, the second was a study of child abuse lightened only by the hilarious dance lesson and the sisters' ridiculous antics.
As everyone knows, Cinderella gets to the ball despite her stepmother's and sisters' meanness in withholding her invitation. As she is being kitted out there is a gorgeous divertissement from four of my favourite ladies in ballet. Miki Mizutani as Spring, Céline Gittens as Summer. Maureya Lebowitz as Autumn and Delia Matthews as Winter. Her Cindersmobile appears and what a set of wheels. I was impressed by Northern Ballet's (see Northern Ballet's Cinderella - a Triumph 27 Dec 2013) but these are so much better. Off she goes to the ball attended by her frogs and mice. Jane, if you are reading this, Isabella Chandler was delightful as were all the kids.
The ball continued after the interval. Dumpy and Skinny made complete idiots of themselves and had to be ticked off by their mum. The prince, William Brancewell, arrived. He fended off the attentions of the two sisters but then spotted Cinderella and the rest, as they say, is fairy tale. The whole cast was good but I need to say a special word about Yvette Knight who was a beautiful fairy godmother and Valentin Olovyannikov who doubled as the hairdresser and major domo. Tzu-Chao Chou was a great ballet teacher.
I should also mention John Macfarlane's designs which were among the bestI have ever seen.
The company will perform the ballet in the Lowry until Saturday. Thereafter it moves to Plymouth and Sunderland and other major towns. If you live near any of those cities then you should go.