The story of Cinderella needs no introduction but the inherent challenge for any new production of this well known fairy tale is to offer an experience that contrasts rather than compares with the much-loved Ashton production that has dominated above all others for over 30 years.

Elisha Willis as Cinderella © Bill Cooper
Elisha Willis as Cinderella
© Bill Cooper

This new production by David Bintley in celebration of 20 years of Birmingham Royal Ballet is an absolute delight. Prokoviev's score remains familiar but from the moment the curtain rises on the scene of Cinderella at her mother's funeral, John Macfarlane's design and David Finn's lighting set a dramatic tone which continues through into the evocation of a Victorian basement kitchen so bleakly inhabited by Cinderella that her isolation is palpable. As the story progresses, magical transformations such as the revelation of Cinderella's fairy Godmother and striking of the clock at midnight bring a truly fairytale quality to a production which is well choreographed and magnificently danced by the company. The Step-sisters, portrayed by Carol-Anne Millar and Gaylene Cummerfield are brilliantly characterised as Dumpy and Skinny through a combination of clever costume (a ballet “fat suit” for Dumpy), great acting and Bintley's comedic yet taunting choreography.

Elisha Willis brings a sense of vulnerability and innocence to Cinderella and her exquisite feet and faultless technique are mesmerising. Marion Tait as Cinderella's stepmother truly embodies all that an evil stepmother should be and Iain Mackay is all that a handsome Prince should be too; credible virtuoso performance and a strong partner for a magnificent pas de deux in Act 2 at the ball. Other highlights include the sublime lightness and perfection of Momoko Hirata as Spring and the very competent BRB orchestra.

BRB is surely a company whose star is in the ascent and long may that continue under the leadership of David Bintley and his creative team. I had, to some degree been experiencing Cinderella-fatigue over the last few years but this production has revitalised the joy of fairytale ballet perhaps because it has less of a pantomime feel, and is a must-see for all ages. Judging by audience reaction, I am not alone in my sentiments.