For the first time since it’s 2013 world tour, David Nixon’s reimagination of the classical fairy-tale Cinderella has returned to the stage. Performed by Northern Ballet and complete with the purposely commissioned score by Philip Feeney, this twisted familiar story is now set in the midst of a Russian winter. 

It indulgences in this enchanting setting; complete with crystal lakes, ice-skaters, falling snowflakes, huskies and bears. There must be the highest of praise for the art design, for every exquisite element of costume, set construction, lighting, envelop us further into the magic. And this is before the ‘real’ magic occurs, where for her transformation we see Cinderella’s serving dress metamorphosise into a glittering gown and her carriage manifests from the set before our own eyes. 

The obvious lack of dialogue in the performance presents a limitation for Nixon, and there were times it relies too heavily upon our cultural awareness of the folktale to makes sense, such as why she must leave at midnight. 

Yet there are other instances where Nixon’s adaption develops the characters more so than in other retellings. In the opening scene of a young Cinderella’s (Rachael Gillespie) birthday, the death of her father (Mlindi Kulashe) is more than a tragic accident. Because he was rescuing Cinderella’s lost gift when the misfortune occurs, grief and vengeance are legitimate motives behind the subsequent years of her mistreatment. Beautifully performed by Mariana Rodrigues, the stepmother is not sadistic when she exiles the older Cinderella (Abigail Prudames), but is rather a wife in mourning. The stepsisters are also significantly less bitter, jealous and comedic here. Played by Kyungka Kwak and Ayami Miyata, there are moments when they wish to reunite with Cinderella, but it is their mother’s fear that forcefully separates them. This performance is about more than one girl; it is an exploration of her relationships with the world and the characters around her.

In his welcome introduction to the performance, Nixon describes this vision as a “honing onto” the universal themes of the story, “which although sweetened by magic and fairy-tale ending, tells the story of a lonely and neglected young woman desperate to be loved.” Yet this does the performance an injustice. The story is not only about Cinderella’s redemptive act, but the other characters are given space to be fleshed out. Northern Ballet’s Cinderella offers an intimate imagining of popular characters under new light and in new settings.

3 Stars.

Featured Image Credit: Emma Kauldhar

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