Creating a romantic lead to match the spirit of Cinderella is no easy feat, but Christopher Wheeldon delivers with Prince Guillaume and his friend, Benjamin.
“There is more of a back story for the Prince in Wheeldon’s narrative” and the character has “similar depth in his journey from joker to jack of hearts” (Dance Tabs).
“The Prince actually gets a much bigger feature in this production, because we see him growing up in parallel to Cinderella” said choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. “Rather than just being the handsome chap that comes in the ballroom.”
The first appearance of Prince Guillaume is as young boy playing with his friend (the valet’s son) Benjamin. The audience gets to see “their pre-pubescent palace pranks” (British Theatre).
The “charmingly boyish prince” (Evening Standard) and “his irrepressible sidekick, Benjamin, create sparks in their brief scenes of bravura dancing… which has elements of competitiveness and affection and is characterised by limitless enthusiasm and energy” (Dance Europe).
Once Prince Guillaume is a young man, his parents King Albert and Queen Charlotte are pressuring him to marry. They explain the political connections to be gained by marrying a titled princess, and send out invitations to an upcoming ball where Prince Guillaume can meet prospective brides.
Christopher Wheeldon adds: “We follow his story, his malaise at being expected to be the king. Not necessarily going along with tradition, disappointing his mother and father, being a bit of a Jack the Lad actually at the beginning and trying to shirk his responsibilities, and then meeting Cinderella. I suppose in a way Cinderella kind of forcing him to pull his bootstraps up and become the man he should be.”
While sending out invitations to the ball, Prince Guillaume and Benjamin continue their boisterous and playful behaviour by swapping places: Benjamin disguises as the Prince, while Guillaume dresses as a beggar.
When they reach Cinderella’s home, Benjamin “is welcomed with open arms, of course, by an ambitious nouveau riche [Stepmother] Hortensia” (The British Theatre Guide). As a beggar, Guillaume is only allowed in the kitchen – where he meets Cinderella. She brings him from the cold and gives him food and a spot by the fireplace. Possibly for the first time, Guillaume is shown selfless generosity: to Cinderella, he is not a Prince, only someone who needs some help. Love is soon in the air.
Prince Guillaume is “initially raffish and irresponsible but growing into emotional maturity after encountering the modest and serious Cinderella” (Dance Europe).
In a nice added touch, Benjamin also finds love: “Cupid shoots his arrow and Benjamin is smitten by sweet bespectacled Clementine and a delightful alternative romance blossoms” (Critical Dance).
See these two young men fall in love during the national tour of Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella, in Manchester and Southampton this October. More info and tickets here.
If you haven’t already, find out more about the character of Cinderella, as well as Stepmother Hortensia and Stepsisters Edwina and Clementine.