“That’s ballet!” said my nearly 6 year old in an excited ‘whisper’ as Cinderella began to dance. Yes, indeed. My First Cinderella at the Peacock Theatre is brilliant.
I wondered how the English National Ballet 2 would make the show more child focused – apart from the glaring fact that the theatre would be full to the brim with excited Cinderella/ballet fans. My little girl was one of many to be wearing her Cinders dress, whilst my 3 year old boy was dressed as Spiderman. Not that inappropriate considering the cleaning issues of the fairy tale house.
The first tweak is the addition of a narrator (also the cook) played by Jane Wymark; probably best known for her role as Joyce Barnaby in Midsomer Murders. My little girl told Daddy that the ballerinas “danced and talked”. She had accepted the ‘voice’ of the tall striking cook as the dancers own. Job done.
The other kid-friendly addition was a very small nod towards pantomime. “Where is Cinderella?” asks the cook, as she and the Prince search for his leading lady. Cue Cinders running gracefully behind them. “She’s over there!” shouts every little person in the house. These audience participation nuggets were moments of genius that allowed the children to have a good old excited scream and shout.
Cinderella is every little girl’s object of affection and Daniela Oddi did this adored character proud. She danced beautifully with grace and strength, but somehow wonderfully delicate too. The ‘Ugly’ sisters are described as ‘beautiful but mean’, which is not surprising, without resorting to pantomime techniques the casting director had to re-define the tyrants in another way. Voila! One tall dancer and one tiny dancer, thank you! Comic asides guaranteed especially as Gretel Palfrey, the taller sister, had fantastic facial expressions and the two of them sincerely seemed to have great fun creating a scene.
The dancers were all of a high standard; Cinderella shone beautifully, the sisters contorted their bodies for the characters and the chorus were excellent. Two great male dancers were the Jester and the Prince, danced by Matthew Koon and Mlindi Kulashe respectively. The Jester was all white and red spots and had the most amazing energy about his dancing. As he disappeared off stage my little boy said: “I want the man with the spotting face to come back.” Within moments he was appeased. “I want to be him!” he shouted pointing at the Prince. And I am not surprised. His Highness seemed to levitate in midair after each jump.
My little girl also noted the arrival of the Prince by shouting out: “Look at his bum!” Hilarious moment. Men in tights are obviously not the norm and the Prince was rather muscular. I wonder how many Mums had the same thought?
As midnight struck all the dancers bar Cinderella and the Prince became ‘Time’. Black eye masks. Stiff arms. Stiff legs. Still graceful. My little girl watched, briefly baffled until I explained, then she got it. Brilliant scene. Still talked about after stories at bedtime.
The lost ballet slipper, of course, only fitted Cinderella. They kiss and walk into the back curtain sunset. Everyone took a bow, the sisters actually got boo-cheered but, of course, Cinderella got the loudest, and warmest, ovation.
The proof of the pudding for me was that if a three-year-old boy can sit through theatre, ballet at that, for 90 minutes (with one interval), it had to be good. And it was. Very good.
This gorgeous ballet is on until 7th April. For ticket details check our link.