Is Cinders a male or a female? Audiences won’t know until the curtain rises on a particular night. This ingenious twist to the traditional tale adds a delightful surprise if you are lucky enough to have the male on your night as I was. And why not change gender? No stories are sacrosanct and this leads to some thoughtful insights into the characters and power dynamics and ingenious tweaks to Scottish Ballet Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson’s choreography. The love story is still there, and there is also an additional gay couple though a same-sex Cinders will have to wait for the future.
Why not change gender? No stories are sacrosanct
The story is also re-imagined and set in a drapier’s store where Cinders first appears as a delightful small child (Seoras Piper) running around, indulged by his loving parents. However, the store (impressive Art Nouveau style maroon wood designed by Elin Steele burns down leaving the child orphaned (hence the name Cinders). There is no step-mother but a domineering American, Mrs Thorne who revamps the store whilst her three ghastly grown-up children bully poor Cinders (now also grown up).
The Thornes entrance is superb as Mrs Thorne (Aisling Brangan) with an imperious lift to her chin throws down her giant hat boxes for staff to scurry about picking them up, her son, Tarquin (Thomas Edwards) already exhibiting camp mannerisms which grow more extreme as the show continues and Flossie (Kayla-Maree Tarantolo)’s prat falls are hilarious and so risky they make one gasp. Unfortunately the second daughter, Morag (Grace Horler)’s part has not been fully imagined and she is given little to play with. Their costumes are also stunning in vulgarity and loudness.
Evan Loudon as Cinders is stunning. The gender swop comes into its own when traditional male choreography is softened and expanded to allow him to express vulnerability as the downtrodden boy in the store, then later hesitancy when meeting the princess, and yet still able to dominate the stage with superb dancing, sweeping moves and a glorious smile; the female choreography has more dramatic leaps and assertive moves. However, though regal and expertly danced Marge Hendrick’s interpretation lacks warmth.
Elin Steele is to be congratulated on the exquisite gold filigree gates to the palace but elegant as the low-necked, fully skirted costumes shown off in many swirling moves of the corps de ballet are, an opportunity for dramatic colour is lost. Only the costumes for the prince and princess stand out in delicate, intricate blue and silver.
Sadly the ballroom scenes go on and on and become tedious. There are also far too many soloists where relevance gets forgotten. Thankfully, the Thorne family’s outrageous costumes (particularly the flash of Flossie’s red petticoats and knickers) and their antics steal the show, plus the humorous and touching incipient gay love affair.
However, despite all the wonderful dancing, and the uplifting score by Prokofiev, the show as a whole lacks magic. There’s no fairy godmother. This is more than compensated for by the beautiful rose garden dancers, but the ghost parents are confusing. They ignore Cinders at first. Can they even see him? They ignore him, more concerned with their pas de deux. There’s no coach to take him to the ball. One can put up with that (budget constraints no doubt and also it fits the more realistic story) but the ending is distinctly downbeat. No fabulous wedding (Now there the corps de ballet could have shone.) Instead we have the family, now a bourgeois couple seated with staff and their child under the sign of their new Emporium. Oh dear. However, I could forgive everything just for the sight of Evan Loudon’s smile.