The classic fairy tale of Cinderella just wouldn’t be the same without her stepmother and stepsisters. In Christopher Wheeldon’s version, Stepmother Hortensia and her daughters, Edwina and Clementine, are not simply evil. Discover more about these multi-faceted characters.
Hortensia is an “extravagant old soak of a stepmother” (The Daily Telegraph) who certainly has a mean streak towards her stepdaughter.
Upon marrying Cinderella’s father, she quickly turns; discouraging her daughters from playing with Cinderella and welcoming her into the family. Cinderella then becomes a subservient member of the household, doing all the chores and waiting on the family hand and foot.
In response to a more defiant and feisty Cinderella, Stepmother Hortensia often lashes out and resorts to physical punishment towards her (much to the glee of Stepsister Edwina).
When Prince Guillaume and Benjamin visit their home, Hortensia is eager to impress and instructs her daughters to lavish the Prince (who is actually Benjamin in disguise) with heaps of attention.
Meanwhile she turns away the Prince (disguised as a beggar) and even physically harms him, showing again that she only values money and power.
At the ball, Hortensia reveals herself as “a stern taskmaster with a weakness for booze… She falters and totters helplessly, dancing a passionate pas de deux that’s an ode to the wine glass she clutches at desperately” (Broadway World).
“Bullish tiger mother one minute, vomiting, hungover, in another” (Evening Standard), Hortensia certainly lives up to the villainous role. When Prince Guillaume searches the kingdom for the owner of Cinderella’s missing shoe, she even boldly attempts to hammer the shoe onto Stepsister Edwina’s foot!
For the stepsisters, Wheeldon took a different approach: “it was quite important to me not to just have two ugly sisters”, he said. “In ballet, we’re used to the pantomime tradition where two men play these roles. I wanted the sisters to be on a level with Cinderella, the same age, and perhaps be uglier of spirit than physically ugly”.
Stepsister Edwina is the older one: she follows her mother’s example, being cruel to Cinderella at every turn. She’s also “the more frivolous flirtatious one” (Broadway World) and “a spoilt coquette with no morals and a bad case of halitosis” (Dance Tabs).
Meanwhile, Stepsister Clementine is “goofy in her heavy-framed specs and dorky grin” (Broadway World) and is more sympathetic to Cinderella.
Together, they make a very funny pairing when, at the ball, they dance to impress Prince Guillaume. Watch an extract below.
At the end of the ballet, Clementine, like Cinderella, gets her own prince charming: Guillaume’s friend, Benjamin.