CINDERELLA

CINDERELLA – CENICIENTA – CENERENTOLA

By
David Haughton

Introduction: How to introduce and describe the nature and making of the Lindsay Kemp Company’s “Cinderella”? What was the background artistic context leading up to its creation, in 1994? We could find out a bit more if we check back over the previous years of international Lindsay Kemp Company productions, in chronological time blocks according to their order of creation… although actually, performances of these eight productions alternated with one another on demand in non-chronological order, during one endless twenty-year world tour.

We can take the first block as 1974 “Flowers”, 1975 “Salomé” and 1979 “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; the second block as “Duende” in 1980, “Nijinsky” in 1983 and “The Big Parade” in1984; and thirdly, “Alice” 1988 and “Onnagata” 1990. Which brings us to the verge of the “Cinderella” dilemma: how to survive and follow an exhausting non-stop monumental twenty-year act like that?

We can start with a few excerpts from an early presentation for an already outlined production, as yet to be financed and created:

ORIGINAL CINDERELLA PROGRAMME NOTES
Jointly written by Lindsay Kemp and David Haughton in early 1994 (excerpts)

“Like most children, Lindsay Kemp discovered “Cinderella” at an early age… in his case, at a traditional English Christmas Pantomime with his mother in South Shields, towards the end of World War Two, at the age of four: a historic moment indeed, since it was the very first live theatre production he ever saw! For the rest of his life he returned to that experience as an indelible iconic revelation of the power of transformation. The idea of a magic power which can transform the drabness (or worse) of everyday reality into something much more exciting has always struck a powerful chord for children, revealing a deep emotional need, across many cultures and many centuries …  …  … 

The ‘original’ versions of the Cinderella story go back not only to the Brothers Grimm, and their predecessor Charles Perrault, but also to countless folk-tale versions that had spread from the Orient to Europe centuries earlier. They all combine the romantic and wish-fulfilling rags-to-riches story with a fascination for extreme violence and cruelty… a very natural part of the imaginative world of childhood.  …   …  …

Many variants from these ‘primitive’ versions have found their way into this production of “Cinderella”, as have other variants and influences from further afield: most importantly Von Sternberg’s 1934 film “The Scarlet Empress”, but also the ‘naughty novels’ of Ronald Firbank from the 1920s, Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bête, Hogarths’s caricatures… for Lindsay, any text or title is a springboard to an uninhibited personal re-creation, provided it offers him a starring role: and what better role could there be than a completely deranged multisexual Prince? Playing opposite a power-craving Cinderella!  …  …  … 

Another advantage of the traditional Cinderella archetype as theatrical material is its familiarity: everyone ‘knows the story’. Being able to predict the spectator’s expectations allows Lindsay to play with unexpected inversions and reversals of the familiar story. No one should be surprised, therefore, to find that our ‘gothic operetta’ differs greatly from Disney’s pasteurised 1950 film. If anything, the style mix points more to Victorian Gothic Melodrama, Music Hall comedies,  Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal and Edgar Allen Poe’s relish for surrounding the frail force of human hope with a murderous architecture of darkness. Plus a whiff of Che Guevara.

The setting for this production is largely inspired by “The Scarlet Empress”, (itself inspired by Catherine the Great), is an extravagant ‘Ludwig of Bavaria’ Court, transplanted to a wildly tropical Caribbean colony. This daringly bizarre decision has dominated the entire production. But from the start, the intention of Lindsay and his creative team has been to create a monstrously cruel racist colonial regime, whose layers of erotic deceit and sadistic power-thirsty plotting would end in the bloody overthrow of the Imperial colonisers. In other words, poetic power and garish entertainment have been programmed from the beginning to culminate together in a violent revolutionary statement…. events not a million miles from racist suppression systems and colonial cruelty to this day.

Introducing a Very Mad Story

CHAPTER 1

LINDSAY & CARLOS:A VERY MUSICAL AFFAIR

Music and musicians were always central to all Lindsay Kemp’s dancetheatre creations. In 1975, on returning from the dramatic months in New York, he was commissioned by the Ballet Rambert to create a work for their company, and decided to create a tragicomic tribute to the Silent Movies. He was introduced to a young Chilean composer and pianist, who was playing for the company’s dance classes, as a possible collaborator for the new show. The pair immediately became friends: the extraordinarily successful show was named “The Parades Gone by” and the composer was Carlos Miranda.

In 1977, again with Ballet Rambert, the two worked together again – with the choreography of Christopher Bruce – on an extraordinary full length dancetheatre creation dedicated to Lindsay’s hero Federica Garcia Lorca. This was the multi-prize-winning masterpiece “Cruel Garden” (narratively based, loosely, on Lorca’s extraordinary 1932 play “Blood Wedding”, but adding appearances of Lorca himself as a character within his own play).  Lindsay insisted on engaging his close Spanish friend and collaborator, Celestino Coronado, as Flamenco consultant. In 1973 Celestino had directed and filmed “The Lindsay Kemp Circus”, and in1974 had acted as an invaluable assistant director for “Flowers”. He wouldlater contribute his passionate Spanish cultural and historical knowledge to the creation and recreation of “Duende” in 1980 and 1981, and remain a key figure in numerous Kempian events and productions, although not always able to follow the Company on its world tours. We shall see more of him later.

Anyway, when our great actor and director friend Romolo Valli invited us in mid-1979to create a new production for his Teatro Eliseo in Rome, Lindsay decided to create “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and we immediately invited Carlos Miranda to do the music.

Thus began an all-important musical and all-round creative collaboration that would last for nearly forty years. Their best work together was punctuated by uncontrollable laughter, playfulness, inventiveness, shared tastes and inspirations… a fireworks team which I was supposed to moderate when necessary, and to pacify when required.

As Lindsay liked to boast, the music for “Flowers” and “Salomé” was based on his own vast and varied record collections from the early and mid-1970s, but always combined with live electronic or percussion accompaniment: “Every gesture has to follow the music” – he insisted – “but the music also has to follow me!”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” began as collaboration between Lindsay, Carlos Miranda and myself, and before long the originally varied musical collages (e.g. Mendelsohn motifs) were brilliantly and triumphantly recomposed by Carlos.

Subsequently, “Duende”, “Nijinsky” and “The Big Parade” were all created with high-impact dramatic music and indispensable all-round input from Carlos (and Celestino Coronado). However, “Alice” was created with highly original light-hearted electronic music by Arturo Annecchino and Sergio Rendine, and “Onnagata” with Joji Hirota’s live and recorded Japanese and Western music (and Joji’s stunning and hypnotic live percussion and chimes): both shows were extremely successful. Nonetheless, during the ten years that passed between the creation of “The Big Parade” and the birth of “Cinderella”, Lindsay and Carlos often returned to continue their collaboration when performing Company repertoire during touring performances of Carlos’s four preceding productions.

For much of that period, both lived on different floors in Barcelona, looking down on the then crumbling grandeur of Plaza Real… until Lindsay in 1988 moved to Rome, and Carlos, some years later, went to live high in the mountains near Granada. Communications thus became more intermittent, as both concentrated on their own projects: Carlos was commissioned frequently by the BBC and by various productions in Spain, and was invited to compose and conduct the music for the opening ceremony of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona… a massive and spectacular composition heard and seen worldwide on Mondovision. In his mountain refuge he increasingly experimented with combinations of music and video.  He also embarked on a promising career as a Spanish film actor. Lindsay, meanwhile, had embarked on his Opera directing career, spanning nine successful productions, and also returned to staging small-cast multiple-piece shows, several times featuring Carlos’s inspiring piano playing (e.g. “Dreamdances” and “Lindsay Kemp and Friends”).

At any rate, after “Cinderella”, Carlos and Lindsay would go on to work together on two further major productions (not produced by Julio Alvarez), namely “Variété” (London 1996) and “Elizabeth’s Last Dance” (Santander 2005)… both of which I hope will deservedly receive a fuller presentation on this Website before it’s too late! This adds up to a total of no less than eight full length Kemp-Miranda shows, scattered over a rich and various forty-year friendship.

Lindsay and Carlos having the last laugh, 20 years later in London

In this Very Musical Affair, Carlos and I tended to be the north and south poles to Lindsay’s tropical games and variations, but with mutual respect (whenever possible, we plunged happilyinto playing four-handed piano duets by Schubert and Mozart). The Trio formed by the decades-long creative comradeshipbetween Lindsay, Carlos and I continued on and off until his sudden death in his isolated mountain paradise, in November 2016

photogallery_one

CHAPTER 2

A VERY PROBLEMATIC PRODUCTION

The making of “Cinderella” took place at a crucial point in Lindsay’s career, and Carlos’s too. Both were in or approaching their fifties, having lived and loved to the full, and drunk, smoked, swallowed and occasionally sniffed to the full as well. But more to the point, they had also driven themselves mercilessly in body and mind in order to perform their relative arts to the full, for spectators in more than 25 counties.

“Live every moment and every dance of your life as though it were the last!” was Lindsay’s motto when teaching and he applied it fully to himself, always pirouetting on the verge of the Fool’s precipice. Often enough he fell, into delirium or into the orchestra pit… but each time he somehow laboriously hauled himself up onto his feet, like a punch-drunk boxer. A punishing philosophy, for himself and everyone around him.

This was often a difficult factor during the Cinderella period. For this, one might be tempted to blame the influence of Lindsay’s role as a totally cruel and demented Prince, but actually, as he confessed in a calmer moment, he was just as deranged as the heterosexual mathematician the Reverend Dodgson, or as the Japanese Onnagata dancer… or, in one way or another, in absolutely all his roles. (Out of respect, I should add that by circa 2006, Lindsay’s on-off destructive relationship with alcohol was definitively conquered… without losing his lifelong ability to transmit his deep identification with strange love-struck and tragic roles.)

The problem factor in 1994, during the Cinderella period, was long-term cumulative fatigue. Cumulative and collective. The golden period of the 1970s and ‘80s, when theatres and festivals worldwide had enough money to pay generously for unsubsidised touring companies, had since long passed… and the Kemp company had also lost many of its most extraordinary performers to Aids.  By the Cinderella period, with a company of well over 30 members, consisting of performers, musicians, elaborate props and costume staff, and various kinds of technicians –many of whom were also called upon to swell numbers by playing onstage roles too – the logistics of touring were verging on the unbearable.

Cinderella arrives at the Grand Ball

Tight schedules, often in two or even three cities per week, meant long get-ins and get-outs (especially with Cinderella’s highly elaborate set, repeatedly and infuriatingly modified by Lindsay), loading and unloading, travelling by coach or lorry all night, and fitting up without sleep on arrival in another city. All this frequently including international travel, jetlag or sea-sickness, and the stress of countless unforeseen last minute disasters. Even during the last month of “Cinderella” preparations and rehearsals in Barcelona, from the end of March to the World Premiere on April 12 in Valencia, the atmosphere was exceptionally wracked by artistic and administrative problems and disputes, worsening day by day. And it only managed to open on time because Carlos Miranda insisted on cutting the almost unfinished final quarter of the show, for the moment ending it at the conclusion of the Wedding/Coronation: a Problematic Premiere indeed!

Work on improving every aspect of the production continued from the following day. A sense of creative cohesion gradually grew. Above all, the sheer beauty and power of much of Carlos’s music seemed to progressively gather momentum and power. The interplay of contrasting motifs and styles became breathtaking: find a video or a music CD online, and listen to the gargantuan storytelling evolutions of the Grand Waltz, the subtly suppressed Cinderella motif, the heart-braking melody of the men’s Liebevoll chorus the night before the wedding, or the Wagnerian death-throes of the Colonial regime. Musical genius dominated, along with superb actor-dancer-singer performers, but longueurs and errors lingered, throughout the short but intense life of this daringly ambitious production (lasting little more than one year), leaving us with a flawed masterpiece.

A brief parenthesis: I remember the strange, painful and touching symbol of Lindsay’s Cinderella crisis, and his courage during the bows while displaying the helpless weakness of both his demented prince and himself, still paralysed from the waist down, in his wheelchair, with his arms lifted to the sky together with the rest of the cast. Long gone was the catharsis of his famous “resurrecting bows”, now drained of hope and energy. But then again, as usual, how can we separate the dancer from his aching dance?

Returning to Valencia… three weeks later the finished finale was added. But the atmosphere on-board remained tense and argumentative, with almost daily threats from one or more company members declaring that they were abandoning the production (usually, but not always, relenting the next day, out of a sense of responsibility)… even his greatest and most loving lighting designer, John Spradbery! Unfortunately, neither Lindsay nor Carlos were born peacemakers.

PHOTO GALLERY TWO

VIDEO NOTES

The above display of international Cinderella memorabilia may be as good a moment as any other to open a brief passage concerning videos of this key moment in the book of Lindsay’s story… and the story of many others.

Yet again we face the problem of technical and digital memory: was 1994-95 so bereft of video recordings – or at least surviving recordings? Transferred from Super 8 to VHS, to DVD and on to digital clicks? So little survives, and mostly of poor quality… enough to show roughly the narrative structure, but hardly doing justice to this creation.

We’re working on finding better versions, or improving the quality of what we have, but meanwhile I do feel the need to mention one very particular video that has probably transmitted a distorted impression of Kemp and Miranda’s Cinderella: twenty years after that production, in 2016,Carlos – who had much earlier received a poorish quality video of the show –released a re-edited film version, with some musical retouches but also featuring numerous dramatic eliminations of entire scenes (the comic ones), insistent additions of intrusive subtitles and haphazard graphic insertions. Plus a new and bitter title, “Cinderella”, or “The White Crown”. The intention was to concentrate entirely on violence, colonial cruelty and emotional breakdown. Neither Lindsay nor I were at all happy to see the original balance of the production damaged, but more or less accepted Carlos’s right to try to bring the show back to some kind of life. We were glad enough that so many viewers could see so much of it, but disappointed that those people would think erroneously that they were (or are) watching Lindsay Kemp’s “Cinderella”.

CHAPTER 3

THE CAPTAIN ABANDONS SHIP

A word is overdue for another crucial dramatis persona in the story being told, covering the nearly 20 years from 1978 until Cinderella: Julio Alvarez. When we first met him in Madrid, this Argentinian dancer was beginning his career as a persuasive and dynamic dance organiser, agent and producer. He had seen “Flowers” the evening before, and arranged a meeting with me the following morning in a bar, to explore the possibility of a collaboration. We had already been approached by several large producer organisations, but I was impressed by his enthusiasm and daring entrepreneurship, and arranged for him to meet Lindsaya few hours later… who was charmed at once. A week later we agreed to work with him, on a trial basis.

Julio very soon passed that test, and went on to become the Lindsay Kemp Company’s permanent Manager and Producer for all its productions, including “Cinderella”. Quite simply, his organisational bravura was responsible for all the Company’s greatest successes from 1978 onwards. Lindsay always called him ‘Sergei’ (Diaghilev), and he always called Lindsay ‘Vaslav’. But by 1993 his enthusiasm for the disorderly and spendthrift behaviour of Kemp’s company was declining… in contrast with the much greater and simpler successes of managing ‘Momix’. And sadly, the preparation (and continuation) of “Cinderella”, with its out of control costs, greatly exacerbated this. Lindsay and Carlos had a lot to answer for, but Lindsay never ruptured his relationship with Julio. However, Carlos Miranda did, aggressively, artistically and personally. And that was that. Julio would not work with Lindsay again until 2014, inviting him for one last Dance Gala in the Teatro Romano in Verona… resuming a friendship that had never ended.

Once the Cinderella breakup had taken place, the show continued with its previously arranged dates, thanks to the great Spanish actress Nuria Espert and her daughter Alicia taking over as its producers. Her second daughter, Nuria Moreno, had long since been combining her performances in Lindsay’s company with continual stressful administration duties, but now found herself administering her family’s production in dramatic circumstances while continuing to play the most sublime and unforgettable of all her extraordinary roles… as Cinderella.

CINDERELLA – CENICIENTA – CENERENTOLA’s LAST PERFORMANCE took place in San Sebastian de los Reyes, on the outskirts of Madrid, typically a rushed one-day fit-up and show with many problems, and several performers missing, on the 22nd of June, 1996.

BUT… as so many times in his life, Lindsay would eventually succumb to his relish for remaking previous creations: attracted by the spell of the Cinderella myth ever since that fateful Christmas Pantomime in wartime South Shields aged four, he later staged a further version, developed during a loving four-month workshop in Livorno in 2009. This featured teaching over twenty enthusiastic students around the age of twenty, four times a week for over 4 months, gradually and deeply shaping them in his non-realistic dancetheatre style through the channel of the Cinderella story. The main roles were cast successfully, and everyone developed, soaking up the hypnotic passion that Lindsay always transferred to all his creative teams and performers…with an amazing degree of success, during performances in three different theatres over the following months. They may have begun as “amateurs” (remembering that the word comes from the Latin “amare”, to love doing something), but Lindsay turned them into much more than “amateurs”… and much more than many professionals.

Of course he couldn’t resist playing the cameo role of the aging father (“that way I can keep my eye on them”, he claimed), and repeatedly pestered Carlos Miranda in the Sierra Nevada, asking for cuts in the music (reluctantly conceded, especially concerning the reduction of the previous cruelty and violence, and the finale’s happy-end Coronation).He also insisted on my help in casting, reshaping, lighting, running back and forwards from outside Rome to Livorno. Above all, a new collaborator was also found for this Cinderella, who would soon become a definitively permanent creative presence in choreography, performance and creative collaboration, namely Daniela Maccari.

On this website you can see much more about Lindsay’s teaching and this different “Cinderella”: from the Menu, go to Teaching, then select Workshops, and then Workshops and Shows.

CHAPTER 4

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

         Having read about the ups and downs of the 1994-95 “Cinderella”, and more generally about life in the Lindsay Kemp Company, you might be tempted to feel slightly sorry for all concerned. But heaven and hell can easily lie in the same bed, especially if the bed’s occupant is an inspired dreamer.

Lindsay was a Dionysian and a Gentleman, an angel and a devil. Without a word, he spoke many languages. But without a doubt one of his greatest gifts was that of creating and running a Company… a unique ‘unbridled’ non-institutional kind of Company: choosing his collaborators, teaching them, inspiring them, amusing them, pushing them to grow, and motivating their hunger for perfection. His occasionally fiery temper never stopped him from being a close friend to every member of his Company, whether performers, technicians, assistants or administrators: he could pass in a moment from shouting “Idiot!” to making the culprit burst into laughter. The boss’s childish sense of fun and delight never failed to win his people’s hearts, and even in the direst circumstances the show nearly always went on. And if he sometimes staggered in front of the public, what was so terrible about that? Mostly it was hard to know whether he was drunk or playing a drunk. Either way, the public loved him for it.

The Lindsay Kemp Company in Paris, mid 1980s

The Company was a gypsy caravan humming with different languages, peopled by young men and women discovered in one country or another who had dreamed of working with Lindsay and now had no intention of leaving. Why would they? They were working with one of world’s most famous trailblazing avant-garde dancetheatre companies, driven by the pleasures of collective identity and the charisma of Lindsay, revelling in a sense of mission, while constantly travelling between the most beautiful theatres and cities in the world… from Rio to Jerusalem, from the Alhambra to the Kabuki and to Naples, Paris, Mexico, London, Singapore, Madrid… an endless list, non-stop. If they didn’t thrill to the adventure and commit to the discipline, they soon left… making space for someone else. Love was always in the air. The circus wheels of freedom never stopped turning… what were a few dramas compared to all this?

CHAPTER 5

IDENTITIES AND ROLES

Personal personnel and people

In writing here about “Cinderella” I’ve found myself focusing a lot on life in the Lindsay Kemp Company, and on this show’s significance as a key final moment of the most glorious phase in its history… from 1974 to 1995.  I have talked about the Company, but not much about most of its individual members. And described the dramaturgy more than the production. We can put this to rights, hopefully quite quickly.

Among the highly changeable programmes visible above, in Photo Gallery Two, you can find various lists of the roles played by those involved in “Cinderella”, often difficult to read when entangled with show-off graphics and twelve-word names in small spaces. Here is a short easily readable list of main creative credits (as seen in the Oxford Playhouse Programme credits in 1996):

CINDERELLA

A GOTHIC OPERETTA

By Lindsay Kemp and Carlos Miranda
Music and text: Carlos Miranda
Decors: Mark Baldwin and Lindsay Kemp
Costumes: Yolanda Sonnabend
Lighting Design: John Spradbery
Directed by Lindsay Kemp
Assisted by David Haughton

         Other than repeating the names of Lindsay and Carlos, this little list is important in mentioning Yolanda Sonnabend, one of the most important English theatre and ballet designers in the second-half of the 20th century, notably with the Royal Ballet for Kenneth MacMillan. Lindsay had adored her work for years, and was introduced to herby a mutual friend at Sadler’s Wells when “Onnagata” played there in 1991. A year later he was thrilled when she agreed to design the costumes for his “Cinderella”. Her brilliantly original coloured costumes lit up the shadowy aspects of the production, as well its grotesque comedy.

Mark Baldwin came from a long-running relationship with Lindsay, starting as a breathtakingly beautiful protagonist in one of the earliest productions of “Flowers”, in Edinburgh in 1972. He had later concentrated on portrait painting, designing and scenery painting for the BBC, also collaborating on various projects with Lindsay. For “Cinderella”, he was called in urgently to develop and paint the complicated set designed by Lindsay, and his bold, gaunt, dreamlike scenery was a dominant element in the show.

Mad Dancing with Dolls

John Spradbery had begun working with Lindsay even further back in time: in July 1963. Back then John was an actor, stage manager and organiser, who came to believe passionately in Lindsay’s talent, even while continuously rebuking him for his lack of discipline. John worked on numerous tours of “Turquoise Pantomime” and other itinerant Kemp pantomime shows with the Incredible Orlando in the 1960s and early ‘70s, and then began lighting “Flowers” in London in 1974. From there Lindsay and John became an affectionate team, where both grew increasingly skilled and successful as the Company’s non-stop world tour led them to ever greater techniques and feats. John became one of Europe’s most in-demand lighting designers (and virtuoso console operators) thanks to his work with Lindsay… and a large part of Lindsay’s greatest successes was due to John, who remained his faithful and fervent friend to the end.

Backstage: the hidden crew. To Kris Misselbrook, the Company technical director and stage manager since 1986, fell the thankless task of steering the Company’s ship through stormy seas and stagnant waters, especially in the case of “Cinderella”. He had to suffer the opinions of too many people and fight to calm his own anger, but his technical skills and patience overcame countless everyday crises. Kris also performed a couple of roles onstage, and helped his partner Steve Cullen in the often terrifying role of Lindsay’s personal assistant and dresser (indeed, Steve left before “Cinderella”. Many years later, I have often been grateful to Kris’s well-kept diaries for helping me record events and dates for this website! Douglas McNicol, as Kris’s technical assistant and actor in Cinderella, never lost his poise either onstage or offstage. Pierre Bachy skill fully survived the entire rise and fall cycle of “Cinderella”, overseeing the sound fit-up and running its often complex mixes of recorded and live music, including microphones for the string quartet led by John Knight, the Company’s bubbling violinist ever since 1979. The volcanic Italian Nino Saccinto had continuously supplied lighting material for the Company in Italy and Spain since 1979. During fit-ups, he often played third man in a deafeningly explosive vocal trio, in furious discussion with John Spradbery and Kris Misselbrook. The creative wardrobe supervisor Sue Skelton was always ready to adapt or create new accessories and costumes, often on last-minute requests from Lindsay. For the last several decades, SuZen has determinately run her vast Lindsay Kemp Company Facebook page, contributing to celebrating Lindsay and his Company’s performers, collaborators, fans and followers. Other backstage and onstage crew members were involved in “Cinderella”, but there’s no space to name them all!

Satya Ganga began as Company Manager in roughly 1978 (then as Janet Ogilvy), and was a superb and patient organiser, much loved and appreciated by the entire Company, liaising with Julio Alvarez, for many years. She had returned to London quite a while before “Cinderella”, but is too important not to mention here. Her replacement became an even more shining figure in the Company’s history…

Cinderella meets the Mad Prince

As a young dancer, Nuria Moreno was introduced to Lindsay in January 1979, backstage at the Teatro Barcelona after a performance of “Salomé”. She joined his Company in1982, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Teatro Grec in Barcelona. She went on to become his most precious performer, friend and administrator for nearly twenty-five years, creating extraordinarily varied and believable leading roles in all his productions, while also administrating the Company. It took incredible strength for her to pilot “Cinderella” through so many crises to its final resting place in the archives, in June 1995.

P.S. she would later be Lindsay’s leading lady in “Lindsay Kemp and Friends”, “Variété”, “Rêves de Lumiere”, “Dreamdances” and “Elizabeth’s Last Dance”(and assist him in staging his first four or five operas), before, alas, deciding to retire from performing…  and ever since has worked irreplaceably in Administration in Madrid’s Teatro Real Opera House. But she remains a beloved lifetime member of the Lindsay Kemp Company.

CHAPTER 6

ROLES, PERFORMERS and STORYLINES

(with simplified‘traditional’ Cinderella names in English)

IN THE HOUSE:

Cinderella’s FatherLindsay Kemp

Traditionally a minor or absent role, here he is present in the dramatic opening scene

as his wife dies in childbirth. He rejects the baby as the cause of his wife’s death, and leaves the house. Two previous daughters remain, to run the house and ‘look after’ Cinderella. After 15 years, as he visits his wife’s tomb, her ghost tells him to return to the house, because his two daughters (or step-daughters, it’s not quite clear) are being cruel to the child. The role of the Step-mother does not exist.

The Fairy GodmotherAnnette Meriwether

This role becomes The Ghost of the dead ‘native’ wife, who appears to the Father once and then repeatedly to Cinderella. She transforms the girl’s rags through a long powerfully danced voodoo ritual, and later protects and warns her repeatedly not to become part of the white colonisers’ racial cruelty.

A spectacularly difficult singing and acting role, blending semi-atonal music with jungle rhythms. For the Company, offstage Annette was a source of peace and strength surrounded by constant skirmishes.

First Ugly Sister – Christian Michaelsen
Second Ugly Sister – Sally Owen

An inseparable but quarrelsome pair, expressing extreme violence and ridiculous comic frolicking through exaggerated screams, laughter, groans, growls, squeaks and assorted noises that function brilliantly as improvised comic atonal music.

Both Christian and Sally had worked with Lindsay for years. Christian especially was a continuous comic pillar of the Company for decades, and Sally was a brilliant dancer and friend from Ballet Rambert days. Two show-stopping performances.

(Towards the end, Sally’s role was played by Helena Berthelias)
Cinderella – Nuria Moreno

She first appears as an unrecognisable creature grown like a bent wild scuttling white-haired animal trapped in darkness, rags and filth. To the point that her father, returning after years, struggles to understand what she is. In one of the most shocking moments of the show, unable to ward off her father’s increasingly strange attentions, Cinderella beats him off with a heavy stick and continues to batter him until he’s dead, much to the delight of the Ugly Sisters. After her transformation, once her glittering magic slippers have conquered the Prince, Nuria’s performance as a seductive dangerous power-seeking Cinderella is astonishing. When forced to make love to the Mad Prince on their wedding night, she panics as she had before with her father, furiously shattering her husband’s skull and leaving him paralysed. Until a magical hint of redemption…

A mulatta serving woman, plus dressmaker and Lady – Lola Peno
Spanish actress and dancer, present with the Company in various productions, notably in “Duende”, alongside her companion Douglas McNicol.

Dressmaker – Eric Tessier-Lavigne
Long-timedisciplined and lively Canadian member of the Company
Hairdresser – Alejandro Naranjo
Recently-joinedSpanish member of the Company
Music Teacher – Kinny Gardner

Kinny came to Kemp with a mass of previous experience. He would go on to play important roles in several Kemp productions in coming decades. A versatile piercing counter-tenor singer and actor in numerous musicals and comedies before and after his work with Lindsay, he also created and ran a prize-winning company in London, ‘The Krazy Kat Theatre Company’, specialised in Sign Language Arts.

IN THE PALACE:

The Stepmother –Kinny Gardner

The Stepmother does not exist, either in The House or The Palace, but a similar cruel and dominating figure is The Dowager Empress, mother and manipulator of the Prince. Kinny was masterful in steering his role between cruelty and tragic anguish, vocally hovering between inflicting and suffering pain, before being betrayed and murdered by her all too handsome lover.

Dandini, Captain of the Guard – Michael Popper (choreographer)

In this production, given the presence of the far from Charming Prince, Dandini becomes the male hero and sexual magnet with whom Cinderella falls in love, creating a romantic thread that only breaks when Dandini murders the Dowager Empress and sets off his revolution. Michael had never worked with Lindsay before, and acting and choreographing together brought problems, often caused by Lindsay and Carlos. In the end he kept the ship afloat and also became a fine Dandini.

(P.S. Towards the end, Dandini was also played briefly by David Haughton, David Meyer, François Testory, Stephen Rowe from Houston Ballet and finally Marco Berriel (key performer and choreographer for many years… see photo gallery).

Members of the Imperial Guard, etcetera:

Tom Ward, dancer-actor andbaritone soloist
Eric Tessier-Lavigne, Alejandro Naranjo
Douglas McNicol,

A faithful and adaptable Scottish Company member for decades, whether in leading, supporting or technical roles. A great peacemaker and hilarious storyteller.

Dame of Honour – Sue Skelton
The wardrobe coordinator was the busiest performer in the show, running from one change to the other between her confidently well-played onstage scenes.

The Prince’s Favourite – Daniel Belton
The Prince’s Boyfriend did not appear among Walt Disney’s dramatis personae, but here, from a play-thing of the Prince he becomes a tragic figure weepingthe night before the wedding, and later, during the revolution, is killed trying to protect the helpless figure of the man – however strange – that he had loved. Daniel came from New Zealand and played in most performance, bringing joy to the Prince’s eyes.
(Role later played by Victor Ullate, and lastly by François Testory)

The Prince – Lindsay Kemp
No need to underline the difference between this and every other Cinderella’s Prince in the annals of storytelling. Despite the visionary memory of love and beauty from that Christmas Pantomime in South Shields, this interpretation – uniquely for Lindsay – portrays a totally unlovable figure. Pitiable, at the most. Comical at times: his irresistible foot fetishes could become terrifying, depending on his changeable moods on a given night. He seemed at times to be challenging himself to be believable as a repulsive monster, perhaps in part due tofatigue and production problems. There were no happy endings in this pantomime of desperation and grief… and yet, and yet…

… Lindsay was wise enough to conceive and insist on a different finale: after the revolution, the dark blue nocturnal empty stage slowly reveals an elderly woman pushing a wheelchair containing a slumped old man. The gentle music tells us they are happy. So do Cinderella’s electric glass shoes, peacefully shimmering.
In the end the shoes exiting slowly stage-left are the only sign of light.

The SarasateString Quartet

John Knight, first violin; Sergio Lopez Gomez, second violin;
Frank Shaefer, cello;  Luca Manfredi, viola;
In such a dramatic but also cohesive context, perhaps it was only natural
that the musicians would be the most allegro and adagio persons on board:
Ah! The peaceably harmonious instruments of joy.

One last look back to August 2nd1994

POST SCRIPTUM

If you’ve read as far as this, or have happened to take a random glance towards this story’s end, you may find that the photo above (from Photo Gallery Two) sums up the exhausted but determined humanity behind the theatricaland personal dramas of Kemp and Miranda’s Cinderella, Cenicienta and Cenerentola show… driven by allits many collective contributors. Here they are, from left to right:

Annette Meriweather, Lola Peno, Alejandro Naranjo, Christian Michaelsen, Tom Ward, and in the centre Nuria Moreno. To the right are Eric Tessier-Lavigne, Douglas McNicol (aka Tantallon), Sally Owen, Stephen Rowe, Kinny Gardner, Victor Ullate, and Lindsay Kemp.

In this precious photo from nearly thirty years ago, we see all the performers rehearsing the bows onstage, at the SummerFestival in Vignale Monferrato, surrounded by vineyards and swarms of mosquitoes, in Piedmont, roughly 60 kilometres from Turin.

Lindsay was always fanatical about rehearsing company bows, which were never very popular with the company… especially on a hot afternoon in the open air.

In the orchestra, John Knight’s eternal cigarette shines brightly as he plays, together with Sergio Gomez, Luca Manfredi, and Frank Shaefer, (inseparable from his white cello case). And right in the lower centre of the photo is a torso seen from behind…without a trace of grey hair on my head, wearing one of my favourite T-shirts, and directing the rehearsal.

By David Haughton

A very special “Cinderella” for forever.