My First Cinderella
London, Peacock Theatre
26 March 2013
It’s interesting reviewing shows created for small kids. What’s particularly wonderful is seeing so many small people in the audience, often having a wondrously great time. But there is also a conundrum in how you review the show – do you try and put yourself in the position of a six-year-old, do you record what 6-year-olds around you think or are you a parent looking at the way teachers are trying to engage with kids about something you love. I’m going for the latter but happily put on record that a theatre full of 4 to 8 year old girls (mainly, and with lots of tiaras and tulle in evidence) seemed thoughtfully and happily to enjoy themselves. They do, though, have short attention spans – instant hits are entrances in wonderful costumes, but any scene which goes on a bit too long without variety seems to have their eyes wandering around – though never becoming boisterous or silly.
I didn’t see last year’s My Sleeping Beauty but I did see the earlier English National Ballet (ENB) children’s show Angelina Ballerina. That used ENB’s own dancers (and was a huge hit), whereas this year’s My Cinderella uses ENB School students and has a narrator – Jane Wymark, better known to many as Tom Barnaby’s wife in Midsomer Murders. It’s a young affair choreographically also, with George Williamson only three years out of school himself. Keen as mustard, he was appointed an Associate Artist of ENB by Tamara Rojo last year.
I found the show a mixed bag – if more hit than not. Great that it’s shortened to 2 acts for this audience, has simple but good-looking touring sets, wonderful costumes and that there is some pretty choreography in it. All good classical stuff. The ugly sisters always seem to pose a problem in Cinderella – they are hard to set, witness Ashton’s troublesome pair which sink the first act of his famous Royal Ballet production. Williamson rather struggles as well – they don’t really have much by way of distinctive choreography and are often reduced to pulling contorted faces. At the ball they do their joke dances with the Jester character but there should be much more fun and silly capering. The narrative, scripted by Wymark and Williamson, also seemed to be overly intrusive and to needlessly explain what was clearly happening – so knock on the door and the narrator says “There’s a knock on the door”. I’m not against narration though and the device of the narrator being a pastry cook (queue nice cook’s costume) works. It was particularly good at the start in setting the scene re the loss of Cinderella’s mother etc.
The student dancers set a good example in coupling the dramatic action to clear dancing. Alice Bayston was a particularly fine Summer with much control and musicality and Diego Cardelli bought likable character to the tailor/wig-maker role. Two other boys also caught the eye – Mlindi Kulashe as the Prince – infectiously happy (think The Cat character in Red Dwarf suddenly finding himself in the Gucci stockroom) and well on top of the big princely moves and, even more of a technical whizz, Matthew Koon as the Jester. If you are going to say it all with steps, that’s the way to say it.
As I say ultimately the kids on the afternoon I was there had a good old time. But I’d like to think that something where the steps assume greater significance will show little people even more of the joy of dance.
22 June 2013: Some images have been removed at ENB School’s belated request.