Compared with his raw, heartrending music for Romeo and Juliet, Prokofiev composed a sassier, slinkier score for Cinderella and this has given choreographers licence to lend the ballet a chic or satirical update. Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon play on the fantastical aspects in their productions, stylish and superficial respectively. But the grandmother of British Cinderellas is Sir Frederick Ashton's classic, in which David Bintley himself danced one of the Ugly Sisters. Bintley's 2010 Birmingham Royal Ballet version, however, is the antithesis to Ashton. Instead of pantomime, he offers pure fairy tale every magical step of the way.

<i>Cinderella</i> © Bill Cooper
Cinderella
© Bill Cooper

Bintley is aided and abetted by John Macfarlane's terrific designs. Time is of the essence. A giant clockface showing five minutes to midnight features on the dropcloth (to be replaced by a smashed clock before Act 3), but the real coup de théâtre comes at the end of Act 2 when a gargantuan clock is constructed before our very eyes, cogs whirring, smoke billowing, as our heroine dashes from the palace ballroom to beat the fairy godmother's midnight curfew.

Momoko Hirata (Cinderella) © Bill Cooper
Momoko Hirata (Cinderella)
© Bill Cooper
Cinders' plight is clear. In the brief introduction, we get some backstory – at her mother's graveside with her father – and then watch her stepsisters (women rather than men in drag) torment her, spilling over into physical abuse. Her stepmother chides her for keeping a pair of her mother's dancing slippers. Cinderella finds release in her daydreams, partnering her broom in a dance around the cramped kitchen. Momoko Hirata's slight appearance and expressive eyes give her a touching vulnerability. When her fairy godmother arrives, she is the spirit of her own mother. The four seasons dance solos, Céline Gittens' fluid lyricism as Summer and Delia Mathews' twinkly Winter, skating on pointes especially fine. Then, before a beautiful starfield, Cinders is whisked off to the ball – wearing her mother's slippers – in a glass carriage, with frog and lizard footmen, mice page boys, the full works.

Despite their cruelty, the spiteful stepsisters Skinny (Samara Downs) and Dumpy (Laura Purkiss) are genuinely funny, earning cheers at their curtain call rather than the usual pantomime boos. They wage witty barre wars in the dancing lesson and don outrageous gowns for the ball. Skinny, in striped tights like a zebra crossing, parodies Petipa in her solo, sickled feet and all, while Dumpy is dressed in custard yellow, keeping a greedy eye on the cakes.

Samara Downs (Skinny), Marion Tait (The Stepmother) and Laura Purkiss (Dumpy) © Bill Cooper
Samara Downs (Skinny), Marion Tait (The Stepmother) and Laura Purkiss (Dumpy)
© Bill Cooper

Koen Kessels coaxes a suave performance from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the strings swooning through Prokofiev's heady waltzes. The corps swirls stylishly in the Prince's celestial palace, decorated in purple and midnight blue, but there's humour here too. The section which references the March from Prokofiev's opera The Love for Three Oranges sees, yes, oranges passed among the guests, Dumpy devouring them, scattering peel as she goes. Cinderella makes a truly fairy tale entrance, although her gown has transformed into a sparkly tutu en route (but hey, that's magic) and Bintley gives her and the prince, the dashing Joseph Caley, a gorgeous pas de deux which includes a spectacular lift where she is held by her ankle. Hirata's port de bras were graceful, her footwork clean without ever attacking too hard.

Joseph Caley (The Prince) and Momoko Hirata (Cinderella) © Bill Cooper
Joseph Caley (The Prince) and Momoko Hirata (Cinderella)
© Bill Cooper

In Act 3, Bintley dispatches a few numbers (no Oriental Dance, for example) and cuts to the chase. A mound of ballet shoes serves as throne to a queue of would-be brides to try on the slipper Cinders left behind in her flight and a quick transformation to the kitchen matches the shoe to its rightful owner. The stage clears and instead of starlight, we get a sunrise, into which the happy couple wander wistfully. I wanted magic. I got magic. Beg your fairy godmother for a ticket!