Cinderella is now told as a wartime romance

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, THIS evening, the curtain rises on Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, fresh to Milton Keynes Theatre following a sold-out opening season at Sadler’s Wells.

This Cinderella is a ‘modern’ romance, played out against a backdrop of 1940s London, battered by the blitz.

A 20 strong cast will play a multitude of roles in the bruised fairytale: “I like to keep them busy,” Matthew says of his players.

“I don’t like having them sit in the dressing room for half the show.

“You still get all of the sides of Cinderella that you would expect – the shoe, a stepmother... it is a real wartime romance told in an unusual way.

“But it does still give you all the elements of Cinderella, I think,” he says with confidence.

And Matthew can afford to be self-assured.

His career as a choreographer and director is littered with success.

He created the world’s longest running ballet production, is a five time Olivier Award winner and has tucked two Tony Awards away, for Best Choreographer and Best Director of a Musical.

The softly spoken ace doesn’t court controversy, but he won’t shy from it either.

His production of Oscar Wilde’s black fairy tale Dorian Gray raised eyebrows and the all-famous all-male Swan Lake ruffled a few feathers when it hit the stage 15 years ago, and not those belonging to the swans.

“The same thing happened with Car Man. The first time we did that in 2000, we used to get a much bigger reaction to the gay relationships in it.

“But when we did it in 2007, it was matter of fact for most people, it wasn’t a big deal.

“I think things have changed quite a lot, and we have a friendly audience who like what we do already, so they will go with you on a journey, as we saw with Dorian,” he says.

“You can take them to places that they would never have dreamt that they would be going to, but you’ve got to have them on side..”

Art cutbacks have made the headlines recently, and in a country that is tightening the purse strings, it is perhaps surprising that audiences continue to flock to theatres.

“You would think that people would stop buying tickets, wouldn’t you?” Matthew says, “But it’s almost the opposite, like in wartime, when cinema attendances were the highest they’ve ever been.

Our Sadlers Wells season was 97 per cent sold for the whole season, and there wasn’t one cut price ticket. It has been amazing.”

Nonetheless, Arts Council funding is harder to come by now.

The pressure is on for everyone.

“We have applied for Arts Council Funding, and it will be interesting to see how that goes.

“I think we’ve got a very strong argument.

“We don’t cost very much. For under a quarter of the money that most other companies get, we supply well over double the audience, so we put in a very justifiable case for what we do.”

And if things don’t go according to plan?

“We may have to look to other resources, but the support from the theatres is there, and the support from the public is there, so I can’t see us disappearing...” he says, which will be music to the ears of Bourne disciples.

Cinderella shows through to Saturday, February 26.

To book tickets, call 0844 871 7652.

THE MAN WITH THE VISION: Matthew Bourne, left, and a scene from the production, above