Glasgow, Theatre Royal
11, 12(mat) January 2019
This is my second review of Scottish Ballet’s Cinderella this winter – the first was in Edinburgh. Why? Well, it’s a production I like and I wanted to see more dancers in it, silly! Economics count of course and it’s a good ticket price in Glasgow (as elsewhere in Scotland) and book long enough in advance and you can get cheap trains to Scotland, especially with a Railcard. OK, with accommodation it’s not the cheapest way to see a show, but breaking out of the straightjacket of usually only seeing things in London, and getting to know a company and its dancers better, is a good thing. Oh, that more who scribble could engineer it.
I’d rate Christopher Hampson’s Cinderella as the best in the UK at the moment. That will really upset some, particularly fans of Frederick Ashton’s version for the Royal Ballet, and I’d say parts of that ballet are sublime while other sections grate terribly. Hampson’s version is a more rounded and modern way of telling the story and entertaining the audience and it too has its sublime moments when love conquers all. See my earlier review for more on why I gave it 4 stars, but much revolves around the terrific way the (Ugly) Step-Sisters are written and I went to see two more shows as much for the sisters’ interpretations as for Cinder’s and her Prince.
Number one on my list of who to see as Cinders was Constance Devernay – her earlier acting as a step-sister blew me away. Devernay is clearly on a roll at the moment and her Cinders was real and touchingly coloured. You believe in her plight and the fortitude she shows, while admiring her quietly stunning technique. In the latest National Dance Awards (NDA) Devernay is nominated for performing the lead role in Le Baiser de la fée – well deserved – and her performances in Cinders just ram home how lucky Scottish audiences are. Her partner in Baiser was Andrew Peasgood and he too is nominated in the NDAs and here he was her leading man – The Prince. Peasgod must get sick of always having the epithet ‘youthful’ attached to his name. He looks about 18, but is in fact 30 and a father to boot. If you don’t know him, his look rather suckers you into thinking he is a rising young star and it will be interesting to see how he copes. But he is fully developed and a fine dancer full of speedy, immaculately executed steps and much care for his partner. And like his partner his portrayal is real and touching. He rather reminds me of the beautiful Bruce Sansom for those who remember the Royal Ballet of the 1990s. That’s praise indeed.
The other dancer I really wanted to see was Luke Schaufuss as the Prince. Schaufuss, like his famous dancing/directing dad (Peter) trained and danced in Copenhagen with Royal Danish Ballet (RDB) and it’s these ingredients that make him a soloist to watch. I saw him in Edinburgh dancing as a Prince’s Friend and he was a rather charming, if macho, scene-stealer. In Glasgow he made his debut in the lead role. I couldn’t get to the first performance but at the matinee I was impressed. The rather ‘Jack-the-Lad’ and impetuous approach of the Friend was replaced by an elegant prince, but who could turn the taps on and deliver the big jumps when needed without looking cocky and taking the shine away from his ballerina. He certainly looks the part and has great stage authority. All up he’s building well on his Danish schooling and deserves more such principal roles. His Cinderella was also a soloist, Araminta Wraith. Hers was the most grown-up of the portrayals, with a smooth and deliberate technique that seemed to develop in strength as the show went on. Wraith does downtrodden with thought, as if believing in herself and knowing all would come good from the start. She and Schaufuss dance well together, especially in the ballroom scene.
One aspect of the production really struck me on seeing the show twice in rapid succession – the Fairy Godmother costumes and make-up seem rather out of kilter with what is a magical and benevolent role. The entire look is very plain and starchy – as if a governess or housekeeper. Although it didn’t jar so much with me, its also an unusual production in not featuring a clock to countdown to midnight – for many that’s such an iconic part of the plot. It’s strange because most of the designs (costume and set), by Tracey Grant Lord, look strong while cleverly allowing easy touring. But I’m being very picky here, based on my newfound familiarity.
And what of the Step-Sisters? Well they all provided their magic and the audience chuckled just as much in Glasgow as they did in Edinburgh. The roles can be tackled as real characters, slightly demented fools or even buffoons but the movement writing shines through and no matter what the slant, the totality seems to connect with Joe Public. So take a bow Bethany Kingsley-Garner, Grace Paulley, Claire Souet and Amy McEntee – you all made me laugh and pleased to be there.