Cinderella: David Bintley‘s new Cinderella for Birmingham Royal Ballet opens with a funeral: Cinderella’s mother has just died and we get a glimpse at the woman who is to become her stepmother. As she consoles Cinderella’s father her two daughters gaze at our young heroine. Fast forward many years and we see an older Cinderella now curled up in a grim kitchen, a dark and threatening backdrop cleverly designed by John Macfarlane to create the mood for a series of scenes in which the stepsisters and the despotic stepmother torment and abuse her. For those familiar with Ashton’s 1948 version for the Royal Ballet the question was: how would David Bintley frame his Cinderella? Early on during the creative process Bintley had indicated he did not want his heroine to be overshadowed by the stepsisters (in Ashton’s version they are very prominent panto dames) so the first big difference here is that he characterises them as real bullies. They remain dancing parts and are used as effectively for drama as for comic-relief (watch closely for a homage to Ashton when they are dancing about in the kitchen after the ball in Act III), while the mean, cane-wielding stepmother (played by the amazing Marion Tait) and her benevolent opposite, the Fairy Godmother (Andrea Treddinick), are character parts. At midnight enchantment fills the stage once more. A giant mechanical clock dominates the scene and Cinderella is soon back in rags at the dark kitchen, wondering if everything was a dream. But not for long, of course. The Prince returns to save her and the ballet ends with a dreamy Pas de Deux danced under the moonlight, in a scene that perfectly rounds off this atmospheric production. Even if this is not your definitive Cinderella, the magic touch of Bintley and Macfarlane is sure to wow audiences for many Christmases to come.