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

among others.

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

we witnessed with Li Cunxin’s debut as the QB’s -330269367141B532Aartistic director, when he brought together

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.

-10094291491F44DD74The earlier 1697 version of Cinderella from

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

majestic heaven.-1504569949662E0071

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

achievements rendered.

-14900481833840ADB9Cinderella is simply transformed, her grace and beauty

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

found queen.

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

Cinderella experiences.

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.

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