Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Scottish Ballet's Secret Theatre

Standard YouTube Licence

Scottish Ballet's Feature Film The Secret Theatre 21 Dec 2020

A little boy (Leo Tetten) bounces his football off a soot-stained wall in Victorian Glasgow. He dribbles it across a footbridge into the West End.  He bounces it against a door which creaks open.  His curiosity gets the better of him and he goes in.   He finds himself in an auditorium but the stage is lit.  Evading the watchman's torch he finds himself in the props department.  A basket heaves and creaks and out jumps Lexi.

Now you would have to have visited Scotland at the beginning of the year and seen The Snow Queen in order to know about Lexi.  As I said in my review, Hampson's Masterpiece: The Snow Queen on 7 March 2020, she is the Snow Queen's sister in Christopher Hampson's adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale which can fairly be described as his best work yet.  When I saw the ballet the role was danced by Grace Horler but in Scottish Ballet's first full-length film, The Secret Theatre, she is danced by Alice Kawalek.

Around the stage are the snow wolves' heads, the shattered ice backdrop of the Snow Queen's palace and many other components of Lez Brotherston's magnificent sets and costumes.   Many of the characters in Hampson's ballet were in the film including the Snow Queen performed by the wonderful Constance Devernay, the Ringmaster (Bruno Micchiardi), the Strongman (Nicholas Shoesmith) and the ballerina (Kayla-Maree Tarantolo), 

However, The Secret Theatre is not a screen version of The Snow Queen.  If anything it has more in common with The Nutcracker as you can see from the synopsis The one big difference is that there is no Clara, Marie or Princess Masha.   In their place is the little boy who shows in one scene that he knows how to head a football.   The Snow Wolf characters rub shoulders with the Sugar Plum Fairy (Sophie Martin) and the snowflakes led by Marge Hendrick. Hendrick will always have a special place in my affection for reminding me so much of Elaine McDonald at Northern Ballet's 50th-anniversary celebration in Leeds on 4 Jan 2020.  She danced Peter Darrell's Five Rückert Songs which was my highlight of that evening (see Northern Ballet's 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala  5 Jan 2020).

The climax of the film was the final pas de deux from The Nutcracker.   Just as Clara morphs into the Sugar Plum Fairy in some productions of The Nutcracker the little boy morphs into the handsome cavalier (Jerome Anthony Barnes).  Having studied the Sugar Plum Fairy's solo  I follow it particularly closely.  Martin performed it exquisitely and had I been in a theatre I would have thrown flowers on stage.  Indeed the whole pas de deux was a delight.

I have to congratulate Hampson and Brotherston who co-directed the film.  The only film of this genre that I have enjoyed as much as has been Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes.   I believe that The Secret Theatre will be watched and enjoyed in 70 years time just as our generation appreciates The Red Shoes now.

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