Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella at Birmingham Hippodrome

Last night #BrumHour’s regular guest blogger Julie Wallis was invited to see her first ballet from Sir Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. As someone who tells me all the time how much she adores musicals she’s clearly a secret ballet lover:

by Julie Wallis

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella at Birmingham Hippodrome

Matthew Bournes’s Cinderella is at Birmingham Hippodrome this week and it is beyond breathtaking! Set in the London Blitz during World War Two it is a retelling of the famous fairytale. Neglected girl Cinderella (Ashley Shaw) meets her Prince Charming (Andrew Monaghan) but then finds herself trapped at home to clean by her stepmother (Michaela Meazza).

Act one is set in the family home and here everything and everyone is in shades of grey, as well as being visually grim, poor old Cinders life is equally grey, with her father confined to a wheelchair, while her stepmother and stepsisters enjoying the high life.


1. MATTHEW BOURNE'S CINDERELLA. Michaela Meazza 'Sybil - Cinderella's Step Mother' and Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella. Photo by Johan Persson
Michaela Meazza ‘Sybil – Cinderella’s Step Mother’ and Ashley Shaw ‘Cinderella. Photo by Johan Persson

But fear not, with the help of her guardian angel (former Billy Elliot star: Liam Mower) Cinderella arrives at Café de Paris and her arrival literally made me gasp, as she swept down the staircase looking every inch the fairytale princess. The first jolt of colour is on stage at Café de Paris. The sets are fantastic. The bombed buildings feature throughout as a backdrop of every set, but the colour and glamour of the Café de Paris is so beautiful. Worlds away from the grey reality of war torn London above ground, the basement bar is glitzy, glamorous and an escape.

The beauty and simplicity of ballet did reduce me to tears, not tears of sadness, just tears of pure emotion. The purity of storytelling that ballet dancers manage to convey with not one word spoken is almost unbelievable.

Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella' and Andrew Monaghan 'Harry'. Photo by Johan Persson
Ashley Shaw ‘Cinderella’ and Andrew Monaghan ‘Harry’. Photo by Johan Persson

Obviously it helps that I did know the story, but prior to going to the ballet I didn’t realise that the story is so clearly told, I had always imagined it was just a lot of dancing that was open to interpretation. This version of Cinderella does have some spoken word, not from the dancers but via Pathé newsreels. Between the Pathé news footage, the bombed buildings and the sounds of the air raids, this is a very realistic production. The band even conveyed the sounds of bombs going off above ground from the basement that is Café de Paris.

Andrew Monaghan 'Harry' and Ashley Shaw 'Cinderella' Photo by Johan Persson
Andrew Monaghan ‘Harry’ and Ashley Shaw ‘Cinderella’ Photo by Johan Persson

The costumes are all beautiful. Cinderella may be trapped in a grim reality where everyone is dressed in grey, but that doesn’t detract from the long satin gowns her stepsisters and stepmother wear, or the fluidity of her own ‘everyday’ clothes. Once again, I was surprised because I had mistakenly thought ballet always involved tutus and men in tights. Apart from the guardian angel wearing white satin, very much reminding me of Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, everyone else was wearing ordinary clothes of the era.

Alongside Cinders, her family, her guardian angel, ARP wardens, various soldiers and airmen we were also introduced to spivs, thugs, rent boys, prostitutes, members of the Salvation Army, nurses, and a “Brief Encounter” couple on the streets of London. Every scene is beautiful, with a great mixture of realism and fantasy.

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella opened to a full house last night and ended with a very well deserved standing ovation.

See Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 10th February. Book tickets here:

Find out more about New Adventures here:

This isn’t a sponsored post. Julie was invited to see Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella for #BrumHour at the invitation of Birmingham Hippodrome. I’m sure she still loves musicals!

Julie blogs as RedandGoldWeb here: