Review: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella – Illuminations DVD

Original Review for Culturefly


A transformative fairytale: the charm of this Cinderella is in the transformation

Cinderella is a fairy tale about transformations: across the ages, the archetypal rags-to-riches tale has enchanted all cultures, imaginations, and artistic forms with its transformative magic. From glass slippers, balls, and a prince to gas masks, bombings, and a traumatised pilot, Matthew Bourne reimagines the classic and richly and wittily transforms it into a wartime romance. With Prokofiev’s euphonious score, Lez Brotherston’s glamorous forties costumes and cinematic sets, and Bourne’s charming choreography, this is a fairy tale that glitters in the gloom of the Blitz.

The charm of this Cinderella is in the transformation: an unloved Cinders is whisked away to a ball, but it’s in a rocking café, not a royal castle, underneath the war-torn streets of a bombed-out London, and it’s a pilot, not a prince, she falls in love with. At the ball they dance jazz and jitterbugs as well as waltz, and it’s a fairy godfather in a white silk suit that whisks Cinderella away in a sidecar. As the determined dreamer Cinders, Ashley Shaw’s playful pas de deux with a dummy – in place of dancing with her broom in the ballet – is delightful, and her dream blossoms into life as Andrew Monaghan’s dashing pilot in an inspired act to introduce the prince before the ball.

The setting for the ball is based on a real-life cabaret bombing during the Blitz, each act prefaced by Pathé projections with real images of air raids, and the drama of Bourne’s Cinderella makes the stakes much higher than being home before the clock strikes twelve: Continue reading “Review: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella – Illuminations DVD”

Review: Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man – Illuminations DVD

Original review: Culturefly


Passionate and powerful: every bit as searing and sexy as the opera

Carmen is one of most passionate and powerful pieces in the operatic canon, set under a sizzling Spanish sun and ablaze with seduction, sensuality, and Bizet’s striking score. The Car Man, Matthew Bourne’s reimagining, may do away with the nineteenth-century Spanish cigarette factory and matadors in favour of stifling small-town 1960s America and mechanics, but it is every bit as searing and violent and sexy.

Set to a stripped-back reworking of Bizet’s score by Rodion Shchedrin and originally restyled for Bourne in 2000 by Terry Davies, The Car Man is a reimagining stripped back to its gritty, aggressive, grounded origins – there are no Swans or Cinderellas here. The protagonists have no express parallel: Luca, the Car Man, is the seducing stranger, as is Carmen, but, like Carmen, it is one of his lovers, Lana, that’s the beauty who betrays one lover for another. And, as Bourne explains in the informative, informal, interview-focused ‘Making Of’ featurette, much of the influence is owed to film noir thrillers, with the central betrayal and retribution less Car-Man and more The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Thrilling from the off, there’s blood, sweat, and sex aplenty as the languor of a long summer yields to lust: Continue reading “Review: Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man – Illuminations DVD”

Review: Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes

red shoes blog

Art imitates life, and the art immerses us: a structurally and stylistically stunning show 

‘The Ballet of The Red Shoes is the story of a young girl who is devoured with an ambition to dance in a pair of red shoes’ says the impresario Lermontov in Powell & Pressburger’s 1948 film. ‘Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on…’ And on, and on they go into the accomplished hands of choreographer Matthew Bourne, and onto the fast-moving feet of his company, New Adventures, in a work of triumph and ultimate tragedy.

The tale of an imposing impresario, a kind composer, a passionate performer and the possessive power of art, The Red Shoes revolves – quite literally – around the stage. Bourne, along with Brotherston, his long-time collaborator, have created a story and set that perfectly reflect each other: the central set-piece – a proscenium arch, the symbol of separation between performance and true life – becomes instead a permeable membrane through which bodies and minds can move freely. As the story builds towards its thrilling, unflinching finale, Vicky Page, our passionate performer – a striking and beautifully sensitive Cordelia Braithwaite – finds herself lost in the space in-between, and it’s impossible to tell if she’s on the stage or in the ill-fated station.

As in the original film, art not only imitates life but immerses it, and across this structurally and stylistically stunning show, in everything from the set to the steps, Bourne echoes key moments like a carnival mirror, distorting the reflections until real-life is unidentifiable. The revolving proscenium is a reproduction of the real-life theatre around it, and its slow advance towards the audience at curtain up is as disconcerting as it is dramatic. A lovely fish-dive-style lift, followed by Vicky’ legs running featherlight on-air as she’s swept up in the arms of her lover, first appears in Act I as the image of uplifting love, but, repeated later in the chaos of Act II, its meaning is distorted into panicked despair.

Even the act finales are reflections of one another: the audience applause at the end of Act I finds an inspired use as the sound of the impresario’s growing anger at Vicky and her composer’s affair, culminating in a train whistle that gives the impression of steam exploding from his ears; of course, at the end of Act II, the steam materialises with the most tragic of consequences. And mirroring isn’t limited to the art onstage: through several sets of onstage footlights, the ‘front’ of the stage can shift and turn with the spinning proscenium, and often puts us face-to-face with a mirror of ourselves in an onstage audience. It’s dynamic staging, simply done, and completely immerses the audience in the art.

This is a company on fine form, full of comedic actors – especially Liam Mower’s premier danseur, a tarty, tardy talent who totters around with his male lover – and dramatic dancers. Andrew Monaghan’s composer’s solo at the piano showcases an impressive musicality to Herrmann’s emotive score, and, with Chris Trenfield’s suave and sinister impresario watching from the shadows, it’s an immensely powerful scene. There could be a little more development between Braithwaite’s vivacious Vicky and Monaghan’s composer before their first kiss, and perhaps the impresario deserves a solo before the pas de deux with his protégé to neaten up a narrative that is at times, unusually for Bourne, a little untidy. Nevertheless, the thematic intricacies and famous source material make the story easily followable, and it’s a dramatic and romantic adaptation of a filmic masterpiece; a work of art in its own right.

Bristol Hippodrome, 8th April 2017, cast includes Cordelia Braithwaite, Chris Trenfield, Andrew Monaghan & Liam Mower, picture by Johan Persson, click for details at Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures