Bourne’s ballroom blitz in wartime Cinderella

War torn Cinderella - another fabulous turn by Matthew Bourne
War torn Cinderella - another fabulous turn by Matthew Bourne

MATTHEW Bourne’s fabulous New Adventures Company returns to Milton Keynes Theatre this week, with the debut tour of his new production of Cinderella.

It is a fairy tale, but not quite as you know it, writes Sammy Jones.

The Blitz is the backdrop in Bourne’s interpretation of Prokofiev’s score, and central to the story is a real wartime romance.

So how much is war and how much is Cinderella?

“It’s a real mix,” Matthew assures, “You still get all the same elements of Cinderella that you would expect – the shoe, a stepmother...but we have a much bigger stepfamily. There are three step brothers as well as two step sisters.

“You get the guardian angel instead of the godmother, but you are aware of what that character is, and she does go to the ball, sort of.

“It’s after an air raid and she has been injured, so it is in her head what happens there.

“She has met this injured pilot in the blackout and imagines him as some sort of hero figure, like a movie star...but actually, when she meets him for real, he is actually just an ordinary guy and they are perfect together.”

And Matthew, whose previous credits include magnificent turns with Swan Lake, Edward Scissorhands, Car Man and The Nutcracker, paid his usual attention to detail: “I did lots and lots of research, and I have included film in this production too, some Pathe news at the beginning to give a bit of background.

“We have used very specific incidents, like the bombing of the Cafe De Paris.

“It was a terrible incident, but has this sort of romance, horrible romance in a way, about it.

“The idea of people dancing away down in the Cafe De Paris while the bombs were dropping...it’s that thing of ‘we live for the moment,’ and we’ve used that in the piece.

“The bombed ballroom comes back to life. Our Guardian Angel rewinds the ball and brings it back to life, so it has got a sense of doom and a sense of romance at the same time,

“It is quite interesting.”

As for Prokofiev’s score?

“I found that it had been written in the war and wondered if you could hear that feeling of a world at war and it really does sound that way when you listen with different ears...the more I delved into it, the more it felt right, so it was a wonderful marriage of things really.

“Most people find it a little more conventional than some of the things I do, but people know the story of Cinderella and they really enjoy seeing it told in this different way, within the context of a different place and time, so it is quite unique as well,” he says.

Prepare for another piece of Bourne supremacy, and there is more to follow next year, when the company celebrates its 25th birthday.

Matthew says that plans are afoot to resurrect early pieces Play Without Words, Town and Country and Infernal Galop.

But for now, thoughts turn to sirens and blackouts and a war-torn capital as a cast of 20 brings Cinderella to life.

Performances begin on Tuesday and run nightly through to Saturday, February 26 at 7.30pm.

Additional matinees are on Wednesday and Saturday, at 2.30pm.

Call the box office on 0844 871 7652.

A sure and certain season highlight.