THEY say that life imitates art… or is it the other way round?

Actually, it’s probably a bit of both. Because just as I was reflecting on how the ugly sisters – reinvented as the slightly more politically correct Skinny and Dumpy – were gloriously personifying today’s chav society, the real thing was kicking off a few rows over the aisle.

A gaggle of sweet-crunchers were demanding their inalienable human right to make as much noise as possible and to hell with everyone else.

So one of the people in front of them, who for some reason weren’t all that happy with having their night spoiled, had the temerity to criticise the alternative pigsty performance going on behind him.

The result was the predictable barrage of expletives. The abused couple promptly stood up and left, called the manager, were given a refund, and the real ugly sisters vanished into the night, job done – someone’s evening totally ruined.

Meanwhile, the onstage equivalents Samara Downs and Laura Purkiss were busy out-chavving each other as they bullied and intimidated poor little Cinders, at this stage of the proceedings played by Momoko Hirata with a simpering, cowering subservience that would make Tiny Tim look like Rambo.

Hirata, as you would expect from so consummate an actor, plays the victim par excellence. She is teased, beaten and battered across the scullery, with the two sisters playing tennis with her in much the same way that two cats will sport with a captured and half-crippled vole.

Aiding and abetting the relentless persecution is the evermore frightening Marion Tait, the stepmother beast from 20,000 fathoms. She moves across the stage like one of Nelson’s frigates intent on piercing the French line at Trafalgar, her bustle and stick sweeping away all before her. Even the vile Skinny and Dumpy shrink in her presence.

But there are changes afoot that will change everything in this house of hell… and so enter Joseph Caley as the Prince. He doesn’t look old enough to get served in a bar, let alone claim the hand of the best drudge in town, but never mind, because the balletic fireworks are about to start.

And what a pas de deux… the first of several that will bring gasps of amazement and bursts of applause from this capacity audience.

Creating a sense of scale and grandeur, John Mcfarlane’s soaring, classical designs and David Finn’s mood-drenched lighting endow the action with an even greater beauty, towering Grecian columns and a spectacular backdrop framing the action.

David Bintley’s choreography is correspondingly breath-taking in its scope and extent. He appears to have lengthened all the ensemble sequences, and this in turn gives you the sense of being in the presence of an epic production, a kind of Cecil B. De Mille cinematic approach that overwhelms the senses.

Bintley perfectly interprets Prokofiev’s romantically sweeping score, beautifully performed by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the steady, guiding baton of conductor Philip Ellis.

Elsewhere, Yvette Knight’s Fairy Godmother brings an ethereal quality to the magical atmosphere of this age-old morality tale, her time-worn and tattered apparel evoking images of an underworld Miss Haversham, perhaps herself jilted at the altar long ago by a fairy prince and therefore determined to make it happen for Cinders and her handsome Prince.

Wonderful dancing, fabulous sets which feature an enormous, truly amazing midnight-bound clock face… we know that while the slipper may not fit everyone, this show most surely does.

It runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday, February 26.