Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella at the Liverpool Empire Review

10-14 April 2018


Reviewed by Jan Mellor

Entering the buzzing packed theatre to a drop of a glittering blue shoe in a backdrop of war-torn London was both dramatic and tantalising. The surround sound of fighter planes and air raid sirens around us and the opening scene of the original news reels demonstrating what to do in times of an air raid, brought the whole theatre thundering into the second world war instantly. As a crowd sat under the news (cleverly representing an air raid shelter) a young girl was highlighted, and the words London 1940 and Cinderella projected across the theatre’s gaping mouths. This was going to be another Bourne masterpiece I’m sure.

Segie Prokofieff’s music was seductive, dramatic and intense and carried us through this wonderland of a fairy-tale story portrayed with sheer passion and drama. The scene moves to the entrance of a stately hall and the family of Cinderella, the mother Sybil (a superb performance throughout by Madelaine Brennan) and her two daughters and three sons who dance superbly across the stage are given invites to a ball. Cinderella caring for her ailing father is not given one and she is heartbroken. Whilst alone amazingly from within a wall comes Cinderella’s ‘Angel’ (an outstanding dancer Liam Mower) who, dressed in a white suit, dances hypnotically with her across the hall. Suddenly an injured pilot enters the house for comfort, but the family soon throw him out once he had shown feelings for Cinderella. We were spellbound. Cinderella’s dance with the clothes prop who transfers into her bellowed pilot is a dream. From this serene house we are led outside to the carnage of war and through a bomb raid Cinderella finds her pilot Harry before she is hurt and collapses in the blast. The first act ends with the Angel reviving her and passing her a ticket to the ball. She disappears into the night on her ‘carriage’ (a white motorcycle and sidecar) as the audience cheered with delight.

The second act opened to the scenes of devastation as bombs land on the streets of London. The effects were extraordinary and had the audience gasping. With the arrival of the Angel the carnage was transported to that of the ballroom of London’s ‘Café de Paris’ and the stage was alight with magnificent dancers and exotic music. Each dancer was step-perfect, energetic and truly remarkable. Absolutely amazing. Pilots arrive and dance with Cinderella’s sisters and Sybil (who wants the pilot Harry for herself). Then Cinderella arrives… the music was hauntingly beautiful and Cinderella looked like an Angel herself – the hypnotic music and vision combined brought tears to my eyes. This was magical. Harry and Cinderella (the extremely talented Dominic North and Ashley Shaw) are instantly entranced and besotted and end up together in a bedroom where they danced wonderfully together to the back drop of St Paul’s Cathedral. A clock appears on the wall showing that it is nearly midnight and astoundingly the scene is returned to that of the bombed streets with Cinderella back in rags on the street floor taken on a stretcher whilst leaving a silver shoe behind for Harry to find. This was spectacular.

The third act has us in the aftermath of the bombing and shocked people walking around dazed in the pouring rain. Harry searches frantically for the owner of his shoe – (the underground scene whereupon he is assaulted by prostitutes was splendidly portrayed) and on London bridge he is beaten up by thugs and himself taken to hospital. At the hospital Cinderella is recovering with the help of her doctor (the Angel) As her wicked step mother Sybil is arrested for attempting to murder her. Cinderella sees Harry and the lovers are reunited. The final scene is that of a station with soldiers and sailors going to war. Cinderella and Harry are married and leave on a train to live ‘happily ever after’ whilst the Angel finds another young girl to help. The audience stood with loud rapturous applause. Fantastic!

Matthew Bourne is an absolute genius and his work cannot be summed up in any review – you must see his work for yourself. The skill of the performers (I cannot single one out as each were completely and utterly amazing), the jaw-dropping scenery (designed by the exceptional Lez Brotherson), the outstanding choreography is absolutely sublime (created by the main man of course), the exquisite costumes, the spectacular music – the whole performance is an absolute dream from beginning to end. As I was walking out of the theatre I just wanted to be walking back in to see it all again. A sheer masterpiece. See it while you can.

A fairy-tale come to life – Awesome!

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £13 to £55.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is at the Liverpool Empire from 10-14 April 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 0844 8713017.

Liverpool Empire Theatre, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017

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