A fresh take on the Cinderella fairytale

CINDERELLA by Prokofiev ;''Directed by Mathew Bourne ;'Designed by Lez Brotherston ;'at the Saddlers Wells Theatre, London, UK ;'23 November 2017 ;'Credit : Johan Persson /
CINDERELLA by Prokofiev ;''Directed by Mathew Bourne ;'Designed by Lez Brotherston ;'at the Saddlers Wells Theatre, London, UK ;'23 November 2017 ;'Credit : Johan Persson /

After last year’s success with a brand new ballet, Red Shoes, New Adventures are back in Sheffield next week with one of their greatest hits, Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella.

Last time out Ashley Shaw was dancing the role of Vicky Page which she herself had created whereas now the principal is returning to a familiar role. .

“The last time we did it seven years ago I was the cover and so it will always be special as it was the role that started my career as a principal,” she says. “And to come back seven years later and revisit it and dance it five times a week is just so special. Everything I dreamed of at that time.

“It’s always easy to return to a show you have done before and you’ve done the character research and heard the music 500 times. But it’s amazing how much you have changed over time and how the characters can develop as well and you approach them from a different place. I am sure I am doing it very different to back then. It’s really nice to be doing a role again and not have the pressure of learning the steps but just focus on the character.

“When you are revisiting a show, even after a long time, it is in your muscle memory somewhere and you find yourself saying, ‘I didn’t think I knew that but I do’. It’s nice to have that automatic pilot, in a way.´

Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of the classic fairy tale of Cinderella is a love story set in London during the Second World War. A chance meeting results in a magical night for Cinderella and a dashing young RAF pilot, together just long enough to fall in love before being parted by the horrors of the Blitz.

“Matthew found out that Prokofiev wrote the score during World War II and felt he was probably inspired by the desperation around him at that time and how that works really well with the Cinderella story and her feeling she is running out of time,” explains Shaw. “So there was the heightened desperation of running out of time and falling in love. It’s a really interesting take on the story. It’s the fairytale we all know but we are taken on a different journey.”

Typically Bourne has taken a few liberties with the story. “The fairy godmother is actually an angel played by a man and she has two brothers and three sisters and so it is an extended family. They are all nasty to Cinderella and treat her badly so she is getting it from all of them rather than the two sisters and the stepmother. It is still the downtrodden Cinderella.”

The Prince Charming character is a pilot. “At the time I guess they were looked up to as heroes and had glamorous uniforms that all the girls admired,” continues the dancer. “So it fits with what Cinderella would fantasise about at that time and that would be the dream man for a young girl in the 1940s.”

Films of the era were key to researching the part. “It was looking at how they coped with the difficult situation and had a predisposition for escapism and how the cinema was the most popular way of doing that at the time. Cinema was thriving at that time.

“Cinderella reflects that with her desire to become a glamorous movie star.“

In the eight years Australian Ashley Shaw has been with New Adventures she has never managed to perform in her home country. “We did a film of Cinderella when we were at Sadler’s Wells and that’s been shown in cinemas in Australia so that’s the closest I have got.”

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is at the Lyceum from Tuesday to Saturday.