Monday, 3 October 2016


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BalletLorent Snow White Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield 30 Sept 2016

Had it not been for a poster in a subway at Huddersfield station it is unlikely that I would have heard of BalletLORENT's performance of Snow White at the Lawrence Batley Theatre last week. That would have been unfortunate for I would have missed a very good show.

There were a number of reasons why this show was so good. The first was Grimm's story retold by our poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. As Liv Lorent, the company's founder and artistic director, noted in the programme:
"There is so much to love in this story - and Carol Ann Duffy has taken the retelling to a new imaginative and poignant place ...."
The story of Snow White has everything: a study of the relationship between mother and daughter that turns from love to loathing, an examination of the psychology of a woman whose vanity or maybe insecurity precipitates such turn, a critique of social inequality, namely the contrast in the living conditions between the royal family and the miners  that prompted the revolt that led to the queen's downfall, the redemption of the ugly huntsman who was rewarded with the hand of a princess and indeed so much more.

Another important ingredient of success was Lorent's simple but very effective choreography for a cast that featured trained dancers but also included children. According to the website:
"Following the success of the Rapunzel young cast programme with 6-16 year olds, Liv was interested in engaging 5-8 year olds in Snow White. At this slightly younger age, children are more uninhibited and express themselves very freely and naturally. Liv worked with a group of DanceCity’s CAT (Centre for Advanced Training) students for 1 week in July 2014 in order to gather ideas for this project, and the company also delivered 6 trial workshops to primary schools in areas of low arts engagement in Newcastle in Autumn 2014, including Westgate Hill Primary School, Hotspur Primary School and St Charles Primary School. 12 children selected from these pilot workshops were also invited to participate in a Snow White research and development week at Northern Stage in January 2015."
There were some striking scenes such as the miners at work at the beginning of the first act, Snow White's housekeeping in the second, the ghastly meal at which the queen devours what she believes to be her daughter's heart, the queen's couru en pointe after she falls through the mirror and her fandango as her shoes turned to hot metal.

The title role in this production was danced by Natalie Trewinnard who delivered a delightful performance of the winsome young princess's coming of age.  The other major female roles were the queen and her reflection danced by Caroline Reece and Gwen Berwick. Reece is an accomplished actor as well as dancer who projected malice and menace quite chillingly. Gavin Coward morphed from a ghastly henchman into noble hero before our eyes. John Kendall  danced the king of the neighbouring kingdom summoned to woo the queen but stricken by the beauty of her daughter.

Carol Ann Duffy's story was narrated by Lindsay Duncan. I worried a little about the narration because I had suggested the show to a friend of two German speaking tourists who understood very little English. They had asked to see a ballet simply because dance does not require an understanding of English. I am told that they left the theatre "beaming from ear to ear."  They followed the plot without difficulty and enjoyed the show very much indeed.

I should mention the music and designs. Murray Gold's vibrant and pulsating score, Phil Eddolls's ingenious sets and some very clever lighting by Malcolm Rippeth contributed greatly to the success of the show.

As this was the first time I had seen a performance by BalletLORENT I looked them up over the weekend. The company was founded in 1993 and is based at DanceCity in Newcastle. It carries out extensive educational and outreach work as well as performances and the home page of its website quotes some very favourable comments from The Guardian and Financial Times.  

Snow White is the second of a series of Grimm tales retold by Carol Ann Duffy hat have been set to dance in collaboration with Sadler's Wells and Northern Stage.  The first of these stories was Rapunzel which I hope to see in due course. I shall also look out for news of the third.  Snow White is moving on to Stirling (11-12 Oct), Dundee (21-22 Oct), Inverness (25-26 Oct) and Bangor (11-12 Nov 2016) and tickets for all those performances can be booked through the company's website.

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