Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella” brings a magical re-working of the classic fairy tale and the music of Prokofiev to The Festival Theatre Edinburgh for one week only (Tue 5 to Sat 9 June). This version of “Cinderella”, set in the one of the darkest periods of British history, The London Blitz, gives us a taste of the terror of those days, but also somehow, despite the enormous destruction to property and unimaginable civilian casualties and loss of lives, a sense of that “Wartime spirit” not to be defeated and carry on with life as normally as possible. The darkness of the Blitz contrasting with the music, dancing, and “joy of life” of the period make sharp contrasts between each other here. Prokofiev actually wrote the sublime music for “Cinderella” during WW2.
Although the original production of Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella” is now 21 years old (first performed in 1997), this new touring production is a complete re-look and re-imagining of the original with new thoughts and vision given to every angle of the original production.
In this production, Matthew Bourne (Director & Choreographer) and Lez Brotherston (Set & Costume Designer) have visually created a world brought to life with wonderful and inspired choreography, sets and costume of a monochrome world that owes much to those wonderful, quintessential classic British films of that period. Everything here has been designed to immerse us not only in the sights and sounds of The London Blitz, but a cinematic world on stage that just invites David Niven, Kim Hunter, Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Vivien Leigh, and Robert Taylor to somehow step out onto the stage and fill the air with “Cut Glass” English accents as crystal clear as Cinderella’s shoes. The immersion into this world of combined film and magical fantasy land is completed with the recording of an 87 piece orchestra and original newsreels played in “surround sound” in the theatre.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is a production that has attention to the smallest detail and the hallmark of quality everywhere. All of our characters are brought to life with wonderfully inspired choreography, and at times it is hard to believe that this story is being performed in dance and not the spoken word as a talented cast seem to be speaking every line to us.
Leading that cast tonight is Ashley Shaw as a truly magical Cinderella with the ability to make an audience immediately empathise with her situation in her household and her transformation to be the star of the ball at “The Café De Paris”. Ashley Shaw gives us an updated “Cinderella” that is rooted firmly in reality whilst at the same time still possessing that fairy tale magic that we have all come to love. Providing the perfect performance role opposite here of our wartime “Prince” is Andrew Monaghan as Harry (The Pilot). The “mannequin” duet between the two of them is simply a delight to watch. Giving us one of the classic performances in this fairy tale re-working is Madelaine Brennan as Sybil (The Stepmother). In this cinematic style production, you can definitely feel the ghostly presence of Joan Crawford in one of her classic roles somewhere in here. Madelaine Brennan gives us one of the best “wicked step-mother” performances that I have seen anywhere in a very long time. Sprinkling magic everywhere he goes is Liam Mower as The Angel. An outstanding performance from Liam here that also in the gender switch pays homage to one of Matthew Bourne’s inspirational sources for this production’s look – “A Matter of Life And Death”
There is a grim grounding in historical facts to this production. The Café De Paris was struck by a direct hit from a bomb in 1941, killing and injuring many people as they attempted to dance away the realities of war, and everywhere, that “live for today because we might not be here tomorrow” spirit somehow sharpens and intensifies the emotions of everyone on stage. I know someone may be quick to point out that our token American GI, Reece Causton (Buster) is in London a bit too early for historical accuracy, but the programme clearly gives a reason why a little theatrical licence was taken with this character.
Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is simply a modern theatrical masterpiece, and although I have given it five stars (the most we have available), this is actually totally inadequate on a production of this level of vision, quality and care. The only thing wrong with this production is that it is at The Festival Theatre for one week only. It has everything; a wonderful cast, beautiful music, incredible sets, lighting, sound, and costumes. In this story we run the full spectrum of emotions from great love to terrible jealousy and along the way encounter “Cinderella, a wicked step-mother, step sisters, step brothers, RAF heroes, A WW1 hero father, angels, thugs, ladies of the night and a man with a very strong shoe fetish. What more can you ask for? If there are any tickets left, try and get one and see this outstanding production
Main cast credits for this performance include the list below. If I have missed your name out, my apologies as a show like this only works so well when everyone involved (front and back of stage) is on their best form. I am giving nothing away here, but try and make sure that you stay in the theatre to the very end here. This story is not over to the very last seconds, and there are some very nice touches and a few surprises right at the end.
Ashley Shaw - Cinderella
Andrew Monaghan - Harry (The Pilot)
Liam Mower - Angel
Madelaine Brennan - Sybil (The Stepmother)
Alan Vincent – Robert (The Father)
The Step Sisters & Step Brothers
Sophia Hurdley - Irene
Anjali Mehra - Vivien
Jackson Fisch - Malcolm
Dan Wright - Vernon
Paris Fitzpatrick - Elliott
The Boyfriends & The Girlfriends
Reece Causton - Buster
Danny Reubens - Stan
Cordelia Braithwaite - Betty
Nicole Kabera - Judy
For more information on this production and other Matthew Bourne productions, visit
Review by Tom King