Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Hansel & Gretel with Scottish Ballet

This post has been a long time coming, every time I’ve tried to write it I’ve just kept writing and ended up with over two thousand words (I wish essays came that easily)

Glasgow is home to the incredibly talented company Scottish Ballet and last week I dolled myself up (any excuse) and skipped along to the Theatre Royal to see their newest production Hansel & Gretel. Inspired by the traditional Brothers Grimm fairy tale and set to German composer Humperdinck’s operatic score, Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet's artistic director, has updated the message and created something wonderful. 
Gretel, Hansel & Teddy
When you’ve got adults playing children there’s always a risk of it all going a bit twee and ballet’s designed with children in mind run the risk of be more about the tutus and pirouettes than plot. When I first saw the slightly oversized table and chairs that Hansel and Gretel were sat at so their feet didn’t touch the floor I was hesitant is that it? Are they just going to make everything else look bigger? But of course they weren’t! You don’t spend two years putting together a show without going beyond “Let’s make the furniture bigger, so the ones playing children look smaller!” With her hair hanging down in two plaits and the fact half the ten year olds were taller than her it was easy to see Gretel as a child. Hansel had a slightly harder time, but the addition of a teddy bear to accompany him throughout helped. 

Last time I checked H&G were abandoned in the woods by a wicked stepmother and spineless father, neither of which are particularly relevant today so they changed it. H&G ran away into the woods to explore and search for their friends who'd gone missing. The walk through the town was I think my favourite part, there's a 1950s style to the costumes and set, H&G run into a local greaser gang- The Ravens according to the studs on their leather jackets. All of the dances are stylish and modern, very entertaining and very good, it was around here I realised no one had gone en pointe yet. Scottish Ballet always seem to tell stories in a very up to date way that really works.

The woods had a very Tim Burton feel to them (and The Sandman having more than a passing resemblance to Johnny Depp didn't hurt) which was fun and spooky and fitted really well with the sense we were moving away from reality. The appearance of the beautiful woman in the moon who's feet hardly touched the floor, instead she was carried aloft by her feathery ravens, moved us gently into a more traditional ballet as H&G were led through the woods to a spectacular feast that only existed in their dreams.

The first act blew me away, but it might not have done when I was eight and all I wanted from ballet was tutus, pirouettes and dancers on their toes. The second act had all of these, it started to nod towards The Nutcracker with toys coming to life and dancing and rather than being about a cohesive storyline was more brief episodes of different styles. The beautiful woman from the moon took off her wig and transformed into a hunched up old witch who started feeding H&G all they could eat while in the corner and oven glowed menacingly. I don't want to spoil the ending but it's Christmas so you don't need to pack tissues.
See, fun!
I don’t know a lot about dance, I took ballet lessons when I was younger but was never what you might call any good but in my (very limited) opinion, the stand out performance of the night was Bethany Kingsley-Garner as Gretel. Bethany’s performance really went beyond dancing, all the way through I was impressed with her acting the role of a lost little girl who had to look after her brother with such clarity and sympathy I started to wonder if Scottish Ballet had brought a child psychologist in to brief the cast. 

Forget Panto if you're looking for a night out go and see this. It's in Glasgow at The Theatre Royal until the 28th December and then it goes on tour.

You can find out more HERE

PS under 26 or a full time student? You can get tickets for £10 find out how HERE

All images from Hansel and Gretel gallery on Scottish Ballet website HERE no copyright infringement intended.

Joy Harpy xx

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