Interview

The games that children play

‘Someone once said something to me which really shook me’ says David Bintley, Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet and choreographer of this new production of Cinderella. ‘People always try to summarise what you do into a simple sentence or soundbite, no matter how broad a canvas you try to paint.

But somebody once said to me in Japan that my ballets were very often about a loss of innocence. At the time I really had not recognised that at all, but I went away and I realised that it’s absolutely true.’

<p><em>Cinderella in rehearsal: </em>Maureya Lebowitz as Cinderella</p>. Credit: Geoff Slack.

Above, Maureya Lebowtiz rehearses the role of Cinderella.

He credits this as being his reason for being attracted to the title character in Cinderella, rather than the often more broadly painted caricatures of the ugly sisters or the wicked stepmother. While the cruelty of the latter means that Cinderella has had her childhood taken away from her, David is keen to rediscover her innocence.

'I love watching adults who are unaware that they’re being observed, because they forget to put their grown-up faces on!'

David Bintley

‘A child’s innocence is a wonderful thing, and it’s a tragedy when it goes,’ he says. ‘But I love watching adults who are unaware that they’re being observed, because they forget to put their grown-up faces on, and no matter how old they are you begin to see the child in them.

They’re not acting. All the business of adult life goes away and you can imagine what they were like as children, often very easily!

‘Children themselves are very comfortable alone with their own imaginations, making up games. I’ve seen it with my own children as they’ve grown up. And I always liked the idea of exploring what Cinderella would do when she was left alone in the kitchen.

When everybody else has gone, what does she think about, and what games does she play? Because those would be the moments when you’d truly see who she was.’