Richard Trinder, Editor

Cinderella: A Pitch For Frozen 3?

Prokofiev. That's what I'd expect in a ballet featuring sunflower filled Russian meadows, elegantly dressed soldiers, a coalition of princesses and a castle. But no. Northern Ballet have chosen Phillip Feeney to create the dreamy, Vaughn Williamsesque, texture-driven soundscape to their Christmas special.

And what a wise choice it is.

Out goes the Prokofiev and in come new sounds, new rhythms, new textures: still 'classical', but fresh and modern.

Photos by Emma Kauldhar
Photos by Emma Kauldhar
By retelling the original Cinderella story, and foregoing the pantomime, we regain some of the pathos of the piece. Our heroine has a genuine Bambi moment of her own, and a neat transition is made between a beaming Audrey Hepburn look-alike Rachel Gillespe, as the young Cinders, and Dominque Larose as the servant girl with whom we are more familiar. Such a smooth transition - made all the easier by the continuity of the beaming smiles.

Some delightful stage magic by Matthew Topliss enhanced the role of the Magician - no fairy godmother to be found in this version - and a host of stilt walkers, jugglers, acrobats, bears, huskies and assorted royal toadies in Julie Anderson's splendid costumes makes a fine feast for the visual senses.

The Beauty of Ice

With Greenland's snow cover melting faster than a Boris Johnson ice sculpture under studio lights, set designer Duncan Hayler and lighting designer Tim Mitchell have given us a sharp reminder of the beauty of this crystalline ephemera. The Northern Ballet dancers used this to full effect with a delightfully convincing illusion of skating.

Looking for all the world like a pitch for a dream sequence in Disney's inevitable Frozen 3, dancers Dominique Larose and Riku Ito treated us to an utterly charming encounter between our hero prince and the eponymous Cinderella. Gone were the flamboyant protestations of passion; in came a thoughtful, courtly, gracious getting-to-know-you flirtation with a confident princess, soon to be raised from squalor but still wilful enough to control the Prince's ardour with the merest twitch of her finger.

Helen Bogatch and Ommaira Kanga Perez - a.k.a. the ugly sisters, which they certainly were not - gave us two siblings for Cinders with much more nuance than their duplicitous panto personas. Out went the deliberate nastiness and in came a pair of troublesome three year olds. "Please Mum. I want to go to the ball. I MUST go to the ball, and I will sulk and sulk until you say YES" - they didn't say. But you could see that very feeling occupied every fibre of their being! Their excitement when given the 'ok' was palpable and infectious: such beaming faces and joyous dancing.

And throughout it all runs Phillip Feeney's music, at times driving the action, then sounding the unworldly crackling of ice, then a dreamscape for our would-be Romeo and Juliet. For a brief moment they are freed from their family chores and cherish the stolen time and drift together as if between planets - a thought emphasised by a gorgeous giant moon filling the back of the stage.

A fine job by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia completed a first-class evening's entertainment.

It was charming. Quite charming.

Leeds Grand until 2 January 2020