On Centre Stage with Douglas Kennedy
Cinderella’s Magical Mystery Cure
There’s lot of magic in fairy tales, which often
takes the form of transformations, probably
more than in real life.
Indeed, there seems to be little or no magic in the
everyday world, although Andy Murray basking in the
glory of Britain’s first singles Wimbledon win in 77 years
years might be tempted to disagree.
So might folk falling in love, pop stars reaching number
one in the charts (for the first time) and tats lotto winners
Although, I’d imagine the serious Scot would on
reflection subscribe to the common notion that reward
in creativity and sport comes with that one percent
inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.
The lovers? The pop stars and the tatts winners?
They’ll wake up in the real world one day (maybe).
The rest of us will go on with our feet firmly planted on
the ground – making the most of whatever we have been
Then then there’s the theatre and maybe film.
The wonderful thing about the theatre – and film – is
the fairy tale world of magic and transformation
not only exists in abundance, but human
secretion is not in the equation.
This can work in straight forward storytelling – such as
Pantomime and skit – but it positively blooms in ballet
and opera, where music and dance carry an
audience away to some world where the daily grind
simply doesn’t have traction.
This has become clear to Brisbane audiences this
year courtesy of two great Cinderella productions
staged by the Queensland Ballet and, now, Opera
Naturally there’s got to be great talent in the mix as
internationally renowned choreographer Ben
Stevenson to showcase composer Sergei Prokofiev’s
musical masterpiece this year.
(And let’s not overlook the on-stage talent in both
productions who combine dance, costume, set and
Now we have OQ artistic director Lindy Hume’s new
interpretation of composer Gioachino Rossini’s
Cinderella or Goodness Triumphant, co-produced with
New Zealand Opera.
As many have pointed out – and quite
eloquently – this production is a dazzling rom-com,
which uses as it’s backdrop a character-driven Dickensian
Once again there’s some great talent in front of, and
behind, the scenes, not least Fiona Campbell’s
This Cinderella’s is ‘Goodness Triumphant’ as she
blossoms in a sparkling princess beauty (without the
aid of too much magic).
The 25-year-old Rossini wrote the work in a
remarkable three weeks only five years after the
Brothers Grimm penned their graphically violent
version of the tale in 1812.
Frenchman Charles Perrault was a much more
virtuous and forgiving Cinderella with a moral along
the lines that, ‘beauty is a treasure, but graciousness is
In Perrault’s story the ‘orrible sisters are not only
forgiven, but found a place within the palace
community, while the Brothers Grimm Brother melted out
the cold dish of revenge as the wicked girls have their
eyes pecked out by pigeons (and are given over to a life-
time of blindness. That’ll teach ‘em).
So Cinderella is about goodness, forgiveness, revenge or
retribution -depending on taste – as well as magic and
transformation as Cinders makes her way from the hath to
But there have been many Cinderella figures in many
countries not only down the years, but down the
They came from classical antiquity, Korea, West and
South Asia, Britain, China, Philippines, Vietnam,
Malaysia and even Disney (although the Hollywood
corporation isn’t quite a country) among other places.
In addition to ugly sisters, slippers, pumpkins, magic
wands, princesses and palaces, they embraced Gods,
demons, fish, cannibals and even Arabian Nights.
Watching the Queensland Ballets’ Cinderella and,
more recently the Opera Queensland incarnation,
OCS couldn’t help but be struck by one universal need
expressed in all the interpretations.
That’s the great human desire to be discovered – to be
recognised – and perhaps lauded for services or
on show to the world, which possibly goes against the
real 99 per cent perspiration- one percent inspiration
But she represents a much more profound human
desire for acceptance and inclusion for what we can
achieve on all fronts.
Then there’s also that other mantra along the lines that
it’s no good waiting for that knock on the door, but
rather we should all get out there banging our drum
and marketing our talent?
It could be argued that Cinderella – with a little
help from friends depending on the story – does
reach out and stage a show.
Ultimately, she returns home to misery and privation and
patiently waits for Prince Charming to come nip around
on his charger, rediscover her, and sweep her off her
slipperier and possibly charred feet.
It’s just like the dowdy wilting violet on Australia’s Got
Talent or the Voice or MasterChef whipping off the
frumpy make-over and revealing the sparkle of a
true diamond, that’s been lost in the human undergrowth
for far too long.
There’s enough food for thought in Cinderella to
provide a sumptuous banquet fit for a king and new
It is interesting to note that QB’s AD, Li Cunxin, and the
one known as Mao’s Last Dancer thanks to a bestselling
book and a much loved movie of the same name, had two
The dancer, turned businessman who now heads the QB,
noted when the Cinderella ballet was launched that it was
among his favourite classical works.
Li’s first Cinderella experience when China’s government
agents recognised his potential and plucked him from his
obscure village and the second when his light blazed
from a bushel on an exchange trip to Texas as a
mature dancer. He knew he had to do a lot more than
simply look good, but, like Cinders, he achieved his
(much deserved) place in the sun.
There’s so many illusions in Cinderella to our universal needs,
wants and desires in what appears to be a children’s story
that I suspect it will engage us from here to eternity.
I suspect, for as long as we need a magical mystery cure for life’s unholy realisms.
Rossini’s Cinderella or Goodness Triuphant continues
at the Conservatorium Theatre Grifffith University,
South Bank until July 26.