Dance Review: Just one stiletto

Cinderella Piccadilly Theatre, London

Fenella Fielding was there, Melvyn Bragg was there, heavens, even Churchill was there, in a theatre sandbagged with celebrities waiting to see if Matthew Bourne had created another hit. Adventures in Motion Pictures' rise to fame has been firmly rooted in its artistic director's key strengths: drama and humour. Sadly, Cinderella is neither as dramatic nor as funny as most of his earlier work and lacks the poetic force of his record-breaking Swan Lake. Prokofiev's score is magnificent but it too lacks the delicious accessibilities and mythic force of Tchaikovsky.

Bourne's choice of a wartime setting - Prokofiev completed his ballet in 1945 - highlights the strident modernity of the score and enables him to confront the darkness within it. He responds uninhibitedly to the music, happy to use it for a jitterbug or a knees-up if need be.

His scenario follows the usual story quite closely, but Act 2 is conceived as a dream sequence in a bombed-out ballroom in which Cinderella (the terminally mousey Sarah Wildor) enjoys a brief Hermes Pan-style rhapsody with her hero (Adam Cooper) before the building sustains a direct hit. Cooper finds the shoe in the rubble of her house and the real-life love story begins. In Act 3 he combs the world for the missing stiletto until the pair are finally united in hospital before heading off to a happy ending from a railway platform.

Charles Perrault, the original Bolshoi production and Frederick Ashton were all content with two ugly sisters. Bourne has gone for a full-scale ugly family. This makes for a slightly confusing menage and obscures the talents of dance-actors like Scott Ambler and Etta Murfitt whose intelligently nuanced work has played such a huge part in AMP's success. Lynn Seymour's stepmother is conceived as a sort of gin-crazed Margaret Lockwood. A vision in her black and white foulard, she gets the only big laughs of the night, but some hints at the roots of her malice might have given her more to get her pretty white teeth into.

Bourne's gorgeous hero and heroine remain curiously colourless. Wildor is a glum, frigid adolescent, Cooper the handsome stick of her dreams. Despite some ingenious pas de deux, we miss the dangerous erotic charge that so electrified the ballroom scene in Swan Lake. At the end, Cinderella's guardian angel bids her farewell, before selecting another Plain Jane for the Austerity make-over: she may dream of a ballroom but she won't actually make it to the ball.

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