This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Grace and Pistachio Flavour

Chief executive and artistic director of Scottish Ballet, Christopher Hampson, has spoken of a desire to reimagine the classic fairytale as being a place populated by people who are “not defined by material things, or by who they have married.” Job done. It's an idiosyncratic, witty foray into scenes evocative of MGM's golden age, with a pinch of film noir at the start and an undercurrent of German Expressionism also thrown in, but moreover, his main remit is to weave a morality tale of eschewing worldly goods for inner beauty. The disparity between rich and poor is alluded to in the uniformity of movement within the cobblers at their production line, juxtaposed with the Hollywood fantasy of the Prince's court.

Performance

Scottish Ballet: “Cinderella”

Place

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Scotland, UK, January 12, 2016

Words

Lorna Irvine

Scottish Ballet in Christopher Hampson’s “Cinderella.” Photograph by Andy Ross

subscribe to the latest in dance


“Uncommonly intelligent, substantial coverage.”

  • Weekly articles from the world of dance
  • Wide diversity of reviews, interviews, articles & more
  • Support for quality art journalism

Already a paid subscriber? Login

Such a disparate meshing of cinematic styles shouldn't work, yet somehow it all hangs together impeccably: the tonal shifts are subtle enough to satisfy on multiple levels. It's a study in growing pains that is richer for the risks to the conventional narrative Hampson has deployed. Bethany Kingsley-Garner, the picture of innocence yet never insipid as Cinders, experiences the first bloom of womanhood, symbolised by a lone rose. Her sleek extensions stretch out like the long shadows of sexuality; longing to be loved, and she even cheekily fashions a 'suitor' to dance with from a man's coat, coathanger and a pumpkin head. But any kind of romantic inclinations are swiftly undercut by the mischievous presence of Eve Mutso, her minxy big Stepsister (nothing ugly here, excepting her attitude problem) who flounces, pounces and flirts with the local lads and her gauche, more easily led little Stepsis (Sophie Martin).

The women are very much the focal point, with Hampson consciously fleshing out roles to otherwise underwritten ladies. The sisters clown, they tumble, they are unequivocal in their agency, unabashed in their sexuality and sass. A scene in the ballroom quickly descends into farce, as the older Stepsister makes eyes at the handsome Prince (Christopher Harrison) but is swiftly palmed off to another. And she's not above kicking a rival where it hurts most, before whisking her little sis away in a ripe parody of a Viennese waltz.

Meanwhile, the Freudian sub-plot of Cinders' Fairy Godmother as mother-substitute pays off beautifully, as Marge Hendrick, almost always on pointe, flickers like a flame in frothy skirts, emulating the grace of Ms Kelly. The glorious Sophie Laplane's Stepmother is sadistic to Cinders—a gold-digger sashaying in suspenders and black dresses who would be villainous were she not so transparent and ridiculous. The blatant contrast in Cinders' mother figures is enormous fun, yet somehow Hampson manages to avoid drawing camp caricatures in each instance.

Jamiel Laurence is the most impressive of the male soloists, a Puckish Grasshopper whose fouettés become acrobatic movements. He is poignant in his scenes with Cinders, as a symbol of the fleeting nature of youth—never to be caught and pinned down. Bugs and butterflies feature heavily in an enchanted garden. So too Cinders must transform, butterfly-like, into Cinderella, self-aware and responsible. No sappy princesses here.

Tracy Grant Lord's mouthwatering designs are like confectionary: her low-lit pistachio rooms, Rococo fronds and golden chandeliers are offset by her stunning costumes, all of which provide a glorious homage to 1930's glamour. As the women of the ensemble spin like images in a kaleidoscope, their skirts most resemble budding azaleas and orchids.

Above all, it is most telling that Hampson has no wedding scene here at all, and the glass slipper completely unimportant. There is instead a melancholy underpinning each pas de deux between the wistful yet intelligent Cinderella and her smitten, shy Prince. Their movements are awkward, tentative. More like a real first date. For “happy ever after,” read a more pragmatic “watch this space,” or even an “it's complicated” . . .

Lorna Irvine


Based in Glasgow, Lorna was delightfully corrupted by the work of Michael Clark in her early teens, and has never looked back. Passionate about dance, music, and theatre she writes regularly for the List, Across the Arts and Exeunt. She also wrote on dance, drama and whatever particular obsession she had that week for the Shimmy, the Skinny and TLG and has contributed to Mslexia, TYCI and the Vile Blog.

comments

Featured

Dance Downtown
REVIEWS | Karen Hildebrand

Dance Downtown

One might easily mistake the prevailing mood as light-hearted, heading into intermission after two premieres by Brenda Way and Kimi Okada for ODC/Dance’s annual Dance Downtown season. Maybe this is just what we need to counter world events, you may think. But there is much more to consider beneath the high production values of this beautifully wrought program. Okada, for instance, folds a dark message into her cartoon inspired “Inkwell.” And KT Nelson’s “Dead Reckoning” from 2015 reminds us the outlook for climate change looms ever large.

Continue Reading
Wayne McGregor: Riding the Wave
INTERVIEWS | Victoria Looseleaf

Wayne McGregor: Riding the Wave

It’s not every choreographer who works with economists, anthropologists, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists, not to mention collaborating with the Google Arts & Culture Lab and the Swedish pop group ABBA, but Wayne McGregor wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Continue Reading
After Trisha Brown
REVIEWS | Karen Hildebrand

After Trisha Brown

Dance scholars have been remarking on the great Trisha Brown nearly from the day she first stepped into Robert Dunn’s class—the genesis of Judson Dance Theater—in the 1960s.

FREE ARTICLE
Good Subscription Agency