Fresh from having seen Matthew Bourne‘s Cinderella at Sadler’s Wells last night, I’ve been reminded how much fun it is to adapt a well-known story- to twist and torture it.
- Fairy tales are easy to adapt because they are so ingrained in our consciousness. Write a new Cinderella story. Forget that “happily ever after” ending.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – you could take that almost anywhere.
- Or how about adapting Jack and the Beanstalk. Your Jack could take an elevator to the 76th floor of a high-rise.
I’m a bit old to be standing at the stage door – waiting for the star to come out and sign his name in indelible ink on my arm, but I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Matthew Bourne’s choreography – so much so that even though his Cinderella playing at Sadler’s Wells opened to mixed reviews, I needed to see for myself.
I saw last night’s performance and I must agree – his Cinderella did not match up to his stellar all-male Swan Lake or The Car Man (Carmen music by Bizet and plot from The Postman Never Rings Twice). Nor did it match his Play Without Words.
But then again, the Cinderella plot is pretty thin. He didn’t have a lot to work with. What did work were the sound and lights. The play was set in London. The year was 1940. Bombs and buildings were falling; sirens were sounding; emergency vehicles were responding; and firefighters were… fighting fires.
The lighting and the set (to include falling girders and destroyed buildings) were great. The dancing and acting were very good. I also thought the introduction to the setting (an original Pathe film that instructed people how to behave during an air raid) was an excellent device to prepare the audience in terms of time and place.
Check out the Pathe website: www.britishpathe.com. Once you are there, type in air raid warnings or gas mask instructions. Wonderful newsreels will take you back in time. Only go to this site if you have time to linger. One newsreel will lead you to another. What a treasure trove!
You would recognize Cinderella’s step-mother and step-sisters, but in Bourne’s interpretation, her father (no doubt a casualty of war) is slumped in a wheelchair. As for her prince charming, he is a RAF pilot. Thanks to her fairy godfather (resplendent in a silver lame tuxedo) Cinderelly meets her prince at the ball, but loses him in the Blitz.
As Pablo Picasso was reputed to have said, “You can’t pull the rabbit out of the hat every day.”