Have a ball with Cinderella at Sunderland Empire

BRB's Cinderella
BRB's Cinderella
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A fleet of articulated lorries, harnessing the equivalent power of 4,000 horses, is bringing Birmingham Royal Ballet to Sunderland Empire with its tour of Cinderella.

Broadcast by the BBC as the 2010 Christmas Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s version of Cinderella won the Best Classical Choreography at the prestigious 2011 Critic’s Circle National Dance Awards for David Bintley’s elegant choreographic work – and it will be hoping to wow the Wearside crowds when it plays the Empire from March 16 to 18.

The ballet is in three acts, closely following the traditional Cinderella story of the wicked stepmother, ugly sisters, the fairy Godmother and of course, the slipper.

The music is the complete original score by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, which premiered in 1945 at the Bolshoi in Moscow, but the choreography, by company director David Bintley, was created for this version.

The set and costume designs are by John F Macfarlane, who designed the company’s famous, and hugely popular, version of The Nutcracker, and the lighting is by David A Finn, who also lit The Nutcracker.

In a break from the character portrayal in Cinderella that has dominated in recent years, David Bintley returned to the original idea of having ballerinas as the two sisters who are ‘ugly on the inside’, rather than being played by two men.

He also added a short prologue showing Cinderella and father at her mother’s graveside. This also serves as the introduction of the wicked stepmother who comes to dominate the family.

John Macfarlane’s designs, originated in close collaboration with David Bintley, offer some true coups de theatre including a giant ticking clock and a carriage.

The ballet has also been billed as a family show and features dancing lizards, mice and a frog.

From its base in the heart of Birmingham, the Birmingham Royal Ballet takes its version of Cinderella around the country on a logistical scale comparable to a major rock tour.

Ten articulated lorries packed with scenery flats, props, lighting rigs, rails of costumes, flight cases of wigs and all the materials necessary to stage this ballet pound the motorways of Britain, taking the show to Southampton, Salford, Plymouth and Sunderland in addition to a two-week run at Birmingham Hippodrome, the home venue of the company.

At each venue the production must adapt its sets to work perfectly on new and different sized stages, and dancers must perform in up to a third less space, taxing the skill of over 50 backstage staff and nearly 40 dancers nightly and, at each venue, the production features the Royal Ballet Sinfonia bringing Prokofiev’s romantic score to life.

Each venue requires between two and three days for each build or ‘get in’ and following the final night of the production the technical crew work straight on through the night to break down and load up before leaving for the next venue on the tour.

l Tickets for Cinderella, which runs at Sunderland Empire from March 16 to 18, are available from 0844 871 3022.