THIS week Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre is playing host to Matthew Bourne’s sumptuous Cinderella, writes our theatre critic Kerry Black.

This is the first time I have ever had the privilege of viewing one of Bourne’s ballets and it was a truly unforgettable experience.

Inspired by the fact that Prokofiev wrote the music for Cinderella in 1946, Bourne transfers the story of Cinderella to wartime London. It is fitting that this week marks the anniversary of D Day.

Entering the theatre there are warning signs advising us that we are stepping back to 1940s London and to expect bombing and siren sounds!

The surround sound design by Paul Groothuis is incredible, I have never heard anything like it and truly adds to the cinematic quality of the piece.

Opening with a crackling Pathe Newsreel, we see the mousy, downtrodden Cinders (the sublime Ashley Shaw) in the bombed shell of her family home as her motley crew of spoilt stepsisters and stepbrothers torment her and make her life a misery, while her father, who has been crippled in the war (Alan Vincent) can only watch from his wheelchair as they deride her.

Meantime Sybil, the stepmother (Madeleine Brennan), rather than being ugly is a ravishingly beautiful lush. She reminded me of Margaret Lockwood in The Wicked Lady, however, according to the programme, Joan Crawford was the inspiration for her character and styling, although even Mildred Pierce herself was less driven than this woman!

The whole production is vastly influenced by old movies. We see Cinderella dancing with a mannequin in an Astaire inspired number and The Angel (Liam Mower) is surely inspired by Marius Goring in A Matter of Life and Death, right down to his powdered white wig. Interestingly Powell and Pressburger, the makers of that film, also made The Red Shoes, considered by many to be the ultimate dance movie, which starred Dunfermline’s own Moira Shearer and which Bourne has also presented on stage. I loved the fact that they swapped a Fairy Godmother for an Angel, especially someone with Mower’s compelling power and physique! (He was the very first Billy Elliot).

Instead of a handsome prince, Cinders meets Harry the Pilot (Andrew Monaghan) a dashing young chap in uniform. While most of the production has monochrome costumes and sets to reflect the black and white movies of the time, when she meets him in the Cafe de Paris in Act 2, she is transformed to a blonde, shimmering, chiffon, screen goddess.

Unfortunately their romance is short-lived as tragically the real Cafe de Paris was bombed, resulting in over 30 deaths and Act 3 takes place within the sterile confines of a hospital, represented by an ever cascading series of white screens, propelled by white coated doctors, led by a bespectacled Angel.

The cinematic influences continue with flashes of spivs, street walkers and assorted lowlife, inspired by Waterloo Bridge and a finale railway set which references the ever touching stiff upper lipped Brief Encounter. The show also has great humour throughout, especially in the wonderful portrayals of Cinders’ hand-knitted, geeky pyjama wearing brothers and also touchingly references a romance between two young men, which would have been absolutely forbidden in the 1940s.

With incredible set and costume design by Bourne’s long time collaborator Lez Brotherston, this show displays both the romance and the wreckage of the war time years. Almost the only touches of colour in the entire production come from the red tablecloths and sequinned stairs of the night club and the giant hovering Red Cross which hangs over the hospital.

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is a five star feast for the senses and it was a true delight to see Sir Matthew himself in the audience.

Cinderella runs till Saturday 9th June at 7.30pm nightly, plus matinees. Bookings can be made at