Sunday, 8 April 2018

BalletLORENT's Rumpelstiltskin

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BalletLORENT  Rumpelstiltskin 7 April 2018, 14:30 Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

The dancers of BalletLORENT performed the Poet Laureate's adaptation of the Grimms' Rumpelstiltskin to an almost full house at Huddersfield's municipal theatre with great gusto yesterday afternoon.  The audience which consisted largely of schoolchildren and their patents seemed to like it. In so far as I have reservations they relate to the style of dance which is just not my personal preference.  The exaggerated and sometimes unpredictable jumps, turns and arm movements as well as the clambering over the sets reminded me more of troops on an assault course or even children in an adventure playground than highly trained dancers but then that may be because I see too much ballet and not enough of other styles of dance.  Having said that, it had very little in common with Wayne MacGregor;s Yugen or Sharon Watson's Wundrush which are contemporary works that I enjoyed very much indeed.

Despite its name BalletLORENT is not primarily a ballet company though one dancer did bourré on pointe briefly as she tried to distract a grief stricken king.  It is a contemporary dance company based at Dancecity in Newcastle (see Dance in Newcastle 4 Nov 2016).  It has already created two works based on the Grimms Children's and Household Tales, namely Rapunzel and Snow White which explore "how complicated and faulted individuals are relevant to the contemporary world". As the programme adds, "This is not Walt Disney." I had seen Snow White on 30 Sept 2016 and reviewed it in BalletLORENT on 3 Oct 2016.

Carol Ann Duffy's Rumpelstiltskin has parallels with Snow White in that they are both about the rejection of children by their patents.  I didn't like Grimms' tales when my mother tried to read them to me as a child because of the horrible ways that characters met their ends.   I don't think that she liked them either because we never reached Rumpelstiltskin and I looked up the story for the first time only yesterday. I was born just a few years after the second world war when passions were still running high against Germany.  I heard it said more than once that the Grimms showed a cruel streak in the German character. That, of course, was nonsense.  I am glad to say that such things are no longer said, but the stories were still chilling. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the most alarming aspect of the tales is the fact that not all children are loved as they should be. Alas, that is always a contemporary reality.

Yesterday's performance focused on the following main characters: the king and queen and later the queen's ghost danced by John Kendall and Virginia Scudeletti, the shepherd, Toby Fitzgibbons, his daughter Natalie Trewinnard and, of course, Rumpelstiltskin danced by Gavin Coward. There were also a  lot of children in the cast. All, professionals and kids, danced energetically and expressively and were applauded vigorously for their efforts. My favourite characters were the sheep who did not have to move with wild abandon.  They appealed to me because they behaved, well, just like sheep.  The choreographer  and maybe the dancers seem to have spent some time watching them on moors and in farmyards because their head movements  in particular were quite lifelike.

The set consisted of a palace and a hill mounted on scaffolding and there were props like straw, gold leaf and bigger and bigger spinning wheels all cleverly designed by Phil Eddolls. There was a lavish use of gold cloth by Michelle Clapton, especially in the queen's costume.  Murray Gold's music fittted the story well. I particularly liked the reel in the wedding celebrations.

The show opened at Sadler's Wells where it received good reviews from the dance critics. Huddersfield was its second stop.  It will move on to The Lowry, Hull, Oxford, Darlington and Aberdeen (see the tour dates page of the company's website).  The audience in Huddersfield seemed to like it very much so it is quite likely that you will too.  If you live anywhere near those towns then watch it - particularly if you have children to treat.

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