Tag Archive: props

With the Cinderella tour now over, the sets, props and costumes have been put into storage. This gave us a chance to grab you a close-up of a prop that will until now only have been seen from afar: the letter that Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters receive inviting them to the Prince’s ball!

The original design for the invitation was composed and hand-painted by John Macfarlane, and from this master copy duplicates were made for the various performances throughout the tour.

A clean sweep

A moment alone in her dingy kitchen home sees Cinderella imagining herself transported to the Prince’s ball. As a prop in her game, she draws a face on the straw bristles of her broom, so that it can become her dancing partner.

While it may seem a throwaway moment, it’s one that creates work for the prop department, who must ensure that the face is gone in time for the next performance.

But the solution is slightly cleverer than simply scrubbing it clean, or replacing the head of the broom each time.

A photograph of one side of the broom head has been taken, and scaled up to actual size. For each show, a copy is printed out, and a panel cut out and lightly spray mounted onto the broom itself. This means that the dancer playing Cinderella can easily draw a face on the paper panel, and that it can be swiftly removed and replaced in time for the next show.

‘We’ve also been trying different ways of disguising the edge of the paper panel’, explains Arthur Lewis, Senior Stage Technician.

‘Initially it tapered into the bristles, as you can see here, but in the end David Bintley himself suggested just using the line of the coloured stitiching as the cut-off point, and that’s been working very well.’

Here you can see a selection of the faces which have been drawn by dancers in stage rehearsals and the opening performances of Cinderella !


Remember we showed you some prop designs which included a plate of cakes? Here’s the finished product!


Practicalities have seen changes to one of Cinderella‘s most iconic elements. ‘We’re not having a glass slipper!’ says choreographer David Bintley. He smiles and shrugs. ‘It’s a ballet, you know? It’s got to be a glittery pointe shoe that someone can dance in, it’s as simple as that!’

While the materials have changed, however, the importance of footwear in the ballet has been expanded upon by David and designer John Macfarlane.

‘There’s a kind of language of shoes going on throughout the piece,’ nods David. ‘There are a lot of very different kinds of shoes that appear throughout the ballet. Initially Cinderella is kept barefoot in the kitchen by her stepmother. But she has some ballroom slippers, left to her by her real mother, which she has managed to keep hidden from the rest of the house. In an act of compassion she later gives these away to a beggar woman, and the fairy godmother subsequently gives her a pair of dancing shoes to go to the ball in.’

In addition, we see piles of shoes which the Prince has discarded while attempting to track down Cinderella in the wake of her sudden departure from the ball. As these are simply props, and are not designed to be worn, many are being cast in latex and polyurethane foam at the Royal Opera House workshops.

Here you can see an example, complete with moulds in the background. The shoes will later be painted and decorated to match John Macfarlane’s designs. However audiences will have to wait to see just how many of them are being created…

Prop designs

In addition to designing the sets and costumes, John Macfarlane has been providing sketches for even the smallest props in Cinderella, ensuring a consistent visual style for the production.

Here you can see his drawings for two items; a cup cake and a dress box. Diana Childs, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Senior Stage Manager explains:

‘During Act I, a wig-maker and dress-maker and dance teacher come round to get the sisters ready for the ball. They arrive with dress boxes containing unfinished versions of the outfits that they will wear later in the ballet, so that they can try them on.

Here is the design for the boxes.

‘The second sketch is for a scene at the ball where a waiter is carrying a tray of cupcakes. So John has drawn a cupcake schematic so that the makers at the Royal opera House can make it exactly the way he wants it to look.’

Speaking to John later, the designer explains the importance of getting the look right.

The cakes have to catch the eye of one of the sisters, and be recognisable to the audience, and so it is neccessary that they are able to be stacked on the tray in an eye-catching pyramid. ‘We start with the overall visual that the audience will see and then work out from there the size of each individual cupcake,’ he says.

Once the props have been created the originals go back to John. ‘He’s a fine artist in his own right,’ explains Diana. ‘He exhibits all over the place, and original sketches like these would be worth a fortune, so we make copies for future reference and the drawings all go back safely to him!’

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