DANCE / Fairytale marriage of ballet and panto: Louise Levene reviews Viviana Durante and Nina Ananiashvili in the Royal Ballet's new revival of Ashton's Cinderella

What? No flopsy bunnies? Frederick Ashton's Beatrix Potter may have reduced audiences to cheering when a duck lays an egg, but the Royal Ballet's latest revival of the 1987 production of his Cinderella is proof that you don't need small furry animals to fill Covent Garden. Ashton's carefully arranged marriage between classical ballet and pantomime was the first British three act ballet and it sprang fully formed from the choreographer's imagination after a lifetime absorbing Petipa's classical tradition. Created in only six weeks in 1948, it has provided a brilliant setting for generations of young ballerinas.

The season opened with Viviana Durante, one of the company's most intelligent actresses. Unfortunately she is also one of the company's most sexy and assured performers: there were glimpses of Odile's knowing virtuosity and of Manon's love of finery which weren't quite in tune with the tentative grace expected from Cinderella. While she underplayed the contrast between the downtrodden drudge and the dazzling debutante, she captivated the audience as easily as she dominated the ballroom.

The curtain rose for Act II with a ripple of happy applause for David Walker's sumptuous design, but the applause was louder still for the incorrigible scene- stealer Tetsuya Kumakawa as the jester, fast-forwarding multiple pirouettes and provoking gasps with a sequence of split and beaten jumps. This firework display heralds the entrance of Bruce Sansom, who bursts on to the stage with a juicy line-up of four lords-a-leaping. Sansom combines strong partnering with a principal-boy prettiness. Here was a man you would cut off your big toe for - and the ugly sisters were falling over themselves to prove it. Ageing ballet-goers are still in mourning for the lost laughs of the original sisters (Robert Helpmann and Frederick Ashton), and it does seem that over the years that the comic byplay of the two men en travesti has degenerated into slapstick. To succeed as comedy a drag act needs to be a close parody of feminine mannerisms - not a heavy-handed pastiche of a pantomime dame. Oliver Symons and Derek Rencher are a particularly ponderous pair who hit each other and fall over with unrelieved buffoonery. David Bintley and Stephen Wicks are a more successful team. Bintley's excessive shyness occasionally threatens to drag down the comedy but his grotesque sibling Wicks is on hand to nip such sentimental twaddle in the bud, twisting his Mr Punch features into a series of impossibly exaggerated grimaces in a performance that brought to mind the grand old days of John Cleese in a dress.

The Bolshoi guest Nina Ananiashvili danced the role of his unfortunate half- sister with a demure sadness and unforced technique. She gave a very affecting suggestion of a diamond in the rough in the first act. By the third she was whizzing through an impeccable sequence of chaine turns, her controlled speed hinting at her background as a child skating prodigy. Crucially, this brilliance is always tempered by the softness encoded in Ashton's choreography. Stuart Cassidy was the Prince charmed at finding such unaffected loveliness in the high artifice of the ballroom. He partnered with considerate strength until the chilling moment when the braying horns mock the transience of feminine beauty and the clock strikes midnight.

The omnipresence of the clock motif in the music, the four seasons and 12 dancing stars in the choreography seems to serve as a memento mori for Cinderella, who must find a husband in the brief flowering before she reverts to ugliness. The real happy ending is that even when her surface loveliness has fallen away, the Prince still recognises his love in rags. The relentless ticking of the score reminds us that time is running out; the constancy of the Prince triumphs over time.

In rep to 3 Feb. Royal Opera House, London WC2 (071-240 1066)

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore