Review: BalletLORENT - Snow White - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 25 & 26 March 2016
Reviewed by Rachel Elderkin - Tuesday 29 March 2016

BalletLORENT 'Snow White', Sadler's Wells, Mar 2016. Photo: Chantal Guevara.

Performance reviewed: 25 March

Although BalletLORENT’s Snow White is dance theatre for children it doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the Grimm’s fairytale on which it is based. In the original tale it is Snow White’s own mother, so consumed by envy of her daughter’s beauty, who calls for her huntsman to kill her. The end of the first act sees the jealous Queen devouring what she supposes to be Snow White’s heart.

The very human themes of vanity, jealousy and an all-absorbing obsession with the attainment of beauty, are the focus of BalletLorent’s version, written for the company by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Her humour adds a modern day touch, creating a narrative simplistic enough for children to follow yet entertaining for adults too. It’s a cross-over embodied in the mirror’s cutting retorts to the Queen’s repeated requests for assurances of her beauty; “Queen, your beauty is a gift, from scissors, surgery, face-lift…” It’s a dark yet enchanting narrative with a moral note at its heart – truth is right.

The narration, recorded by actor Lindsay Duncan, feels woven into the very steps that the company dance, so in tune are the words and movement. This, combined with the company’s superb physicality and characterisation, results in an engaging and believable story.

Snow White’s light, youthful spirit is charmingly danced by Natalie Trewinnard, while the miners – who toil beneath the palace to supply its riches and who later adopt Snow White into their home – are hunched and creature-like. Their heavy, grounded movements unfold in a world of darkness, the stage lit by their headlamps and torches.

Phil Eddolls’ imaginative set design adds a touch of magic to this work. A throne, raised upon a stepped structure of bedroom chests and drawers takes centre stage for the opening palace scenes. Snow White and the Queen dance together upon and around its structure, pulling ribbons and brushes from drawers as they preen and beautify themselves in their handheld mirrors. Later, the small set transforms into the forest, a wild tangle of twigs and branches. This becomes the miners’ home in which Snow White is kept and the cast climb and swing around it with their huddled, scurrying movements as they busy themselves with the household chores.

At each location on their tour, BalletLorent are joined by a cast of 12 children and, for some, it is their first time on stage. For the performances at Sadler’s Wells these young performers come from Islington’s Vittoria Primary School. Their presence brings a sense of innocence and joy to the stage, particularly in the opening scenes where they play with falling feathers of snow, run and jump with spring-yellow kites and twirl beneath the burnt orange of autumn leaves in a sweet, yet sophisticated, image of the passing seasons. They later appear as a host of woodland creatures; the deer and rabbits that gather around Snow White. Far from a token gesture this young cast are an integral part of the show and their evident enjoyment shines through.

In Snow White, BalletLorent have created a show for an audience of any age. Its simplicity is easily understood and the cast portray their tale with vivacity and charm, creating a magical, fairy-tale atmosphere that will captivate a younger audience. Yet the darkness of this story gives it a very human edge; the realism of a far from perfect world. This fairytale world is one of dangers, of difficult truths and of love that doesn’t necessarily come in the form of a Prince Charming.

More info & tour dates:

Rachel Elderkin is a freelance dancer and dance writer. She has written for a number of arts publications and regularly contributes to The Stage, Fjord Review and British Theatre Guide. Twitter: @Rachel_Elderkin

Photos: Chantal Guevara

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