David Nixon’s production of Cinderella takes the classic fairy-tale to Imperial Russia, stripping away the sentimentality and crudeness associated with pantomime versions and instead focusing on what’s at the heart of the tale – a young woman’s search for love.

The ballet opens with a family picnic where young Cinderella, played with youthful innocence by Antoinette Brooks-Daw, meets Prince Mikhail (Matthew Koon) for the first time. The happiness is short-lived though as tragedy strikes when Cinderella’s stepsisters play a prank which backfires and Cinderella is blamed for the accidental death of her father.

Cinderella soon feels the wrath of her stepmother, played brilliantly by Jessica Morgan. Morgan’s scissor-like walk and jagged movements create a menacing tension which is in direct contrast to Cinderella’s grace.

The action is transported to Moscow where Cinderella, now grown up and played by Martha Leebolt, is a servant in her stepmother’s house. From this point on we are given a real festive treat as Cinderella visits a bustling winter market, complete with stilt walkers, acrobats and a magician, and gives a breathtaking performance as she skates on a crystal lake, dancers gliding across the stage to the backdrop of Philip Feeney’s enchanting score.

While the first half of the ballet is a festive rollercoaster ride – so good there are actually ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the audience – it feels like some of the magic is missing from the second half. The anticipation builds at the Royal Ball, but it’s so long before we see Cinders again that it feels a little dragged out. But the chemistry between premier dancers Tobias Batley, playing the older Prince Mikhail, and Martha Leebolt during their solo gets the audience back on track and the whole auditorium rejoices as they finally declare their love for each other.

Overall this festive ballet will bring a smile to the face of the most Scrooge-like individuals.

Sarah Stewart