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SUMPTUOUS, SATISFYING AND PLEASING TO THE EYE

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Lucy Green as Cinderella, Royal NZ Ballet, Tower Season 2012
Lucy Green as Cinderella, Royal NZ Ballet, Tower Season 2012
The Tower Season of Cinderella
CHOREOGRAPHY Christopher Hampson
MUSIC Sergei Prokofiev
DESIGN Tracy Grant Lord
LIGHTING Nick Schlieper 

at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 2 Aug 2012 to 11 Aug 2012
[2hr 20 mins including intervals]

Reviewed by Lyne Pringle, 3 Aug 2012


I first saw this production in 2007,  and the design of the work is as startling as it was on first viewing. With a gorgeous palette of green, grey and pink it sumptuous, satisfying and pleasing to the eye. Garments swirl long after the body has stopped moving as if they have their own choreography – this designer, Tracy Grant Lord. knows the dancers body well.

My ears were more attuned to the music this time around – composed in 1944 by Prokofiev some of it is dissonant and arrhythmic making it tricky to choreograph to particularly in the first act. There are beautiful melodies but also an acerbic bite and wit which adds zest. The score was written during the darkest of World War II and though it is an often delicate and feminine fairy tale, there are dark undercurrents which are brought forth in Christopher Hampson's interpretation.

The Vector Orchestra were splendid. It is such a treat to have live lush sounds emanating at close proximity. Prokofiev actually wrote seven ballets, continuing the rich legacy of narrative Russian ballet started by Tchaikovsky. Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella are the best known and significantly, both date from before the political clampdown in Russia on artistic freedom.

Lucy Green is a lovely Cinderella. There is a luminous innocence about her and a generosity of spirit that is perfectly suited to the role. Her dancing is clear and lyrical with an exquisite line in her arabesque.  I feel drawn to her character right from the beginning of the ballet and invested in a happy outcome for her.

Act I Scene One fails to hold my interest, the choreography seems stilted and the mime protracted and unconvincing. Aside from Lucy Green the performances forced and clichéd. Whilst the dancing is good from Clytie Campbell , Adriana Harper (Ugly step Sisters) , Lucy Balfour (Stepmother) I am not drawn into the drama of this dysfunctional family. However there is some assured partnering between Paul Matthews (Father) and Lucy Green.

Brendan Bradshaw and Jacob Chown bring a burst of energy into the household with the invitation to the Prince's Ball. The humour stakes are lifted with the arrival of Medhi Angot (Dancing Master) and we see how hopeless the Ugly Sisters are at dancing – it takes great skill to be this good at being bad! Eventually the scene is rounded off with very camp dressmakers decking out the ugly gals and leaving poor Cinderella dejected and alone.

Scene Two presents the full scope of the design for the work in breath-taking fashion as Cinderella finds herself in the enchanted Rose Garden. Her Fairy Godmother, long limbed willowy Abigail Boyle, is serenely graceful. She dances exquisitely in a gown that matches her perfect beauty.

Medhi Angot shines as a nimble Grasshopper with quirky and skilful choreography danced assuredly. Cinderella dances a duet with her friend the Grasshopper whilst Jacob Chown and Kohei Iwamoto flit through as airborne Silk moths; Dressmakers morph into mischievous spiders and work becomes more satisfying choreographically with a chorus of Roses who dance delicately and precisely to conjure a world only possible in this kind of ballet. Magic!

Act II is gorgeously stylish with a well-tuned corps de ballet dancing intricate choreography that swirls in the space to evoke a royal ballroom. The performances of the ugly sisters lift off  with fabulous solos from them and they are hilarious as they pursue first the prince and then the prince's friends who jête and prance with terrific elevation.

 Oi Huan brings a stylish elegance to the role of the Prince and in this Act I find I am fully engaged in the story as Cinderella arrives at the ball. This is in part due to the plausible chemistry between the two lovers. Green and Huan form a great partnership;  with tenderness and assuredness expressed in every gesture and with every line fulfilled. Huan offers magnificent stability and Green responds accordingly. I was also very drawn to the choreography in their pas de deux and the delivery of their solos – ballet at its best!

Jon Trimmer does a wonderful comic turn in between acts and there is some great choreography from the shoe makers before the Prince searches the land to eventually find his one true love.

Act III Scene Three finds the lovers in the rose garden, together at last as the choreography offers a reprise of their grand ballroom duet. The choreography and performances are lovely and there is a sense of satisfaction as they kiss under a shower of rose petals - a true fairy tale ending.

A show with a slow start but we get there in the end.

 


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See also reviews by:
 Jennifer Shennan (The Dominion Post);
 Deirdre Tarrant (Capital Times);
 Hannah Molloy
 Jenny Stevenson