Ballet Theatre UK
The Lighthouse, Kettering
November 12, 2015
If you’re going to get audiences to come and watch ballet in those towns where it’s rarely seen, you need to be able to tell a good story. It’s something Ballet Theatre UK artistic director Christopher Moore does rather well, his latest offering being a revival of his Snow Queen, based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. It’s a charming telling of the story; a real family ballet with something for all ages.
After a short prologue that explains why the Snow Queen has cursed the land to eternal winter, the story follows Gerda in her quest to find her friend Kay, who the Snow Queen has placed under another icy spell and spirited away. Along the way she runs across a strange lady with a magical golden comb, dancing flowers, a rather smart raven, a prince and princess, a band of gypsies and a reindeer. When she finally finds Kay in the Snow Queen’s wintry ice palace, the usual kiss does the trick, releasing Kay from
the spell, and the land from its curse.
While a few more friends and snow maidens might add to the ensemble sections, as is often the case, a smaller cast serves to magnify the focus on the story, which is told largely with considerable clarity. Moore keeps things moving along nicely with dances woven neatly and seamlessly into the narrative. All the characters get their moment in the spotlight, but not once is there a sense of the tale grinding to a halt simply to allow for that.
Despite a touring schedule that sees the company racking up the miles like few others, the dancers looked fresh and enthusiastic. Sure, there were a couple of uncertain moments, including a heart-stopper coming out of one lift, but all were well rescued.
Sarah Mortimer as Gerda certainly lit up the stage with her natural smile. It was impossible not to warm to her. Maybe there could be a little more sense of being tired, hungry and in despair during her quest to find Kay, but there was no problem with the determination she showed when finally doing battle with the Snow Queen to release Kay (Rodolphe Giacalone) from his frozen spell.
Claire Corruble Cabot was a steely Snow Queen complete with impressive icy headdress, ably backed up by her cohort of four wolves; something of a sense of Carabosse and her attendants here, I thought. Although she never comes across as evil or especially nasty, Cabot does a nice line in getting seriously mad, as when Gerda shows up to take Kay back.
Elsewhere, Robert Noble got the Raven spot on, giving the bird a clear character as well as capturing its natural head movement remarkably well. Charlotte Eades as the Princess and David Brewer as the Prince brought a touch of humour to proceedings as they argued over who should have a cake. As with a number of cast, Brewer did double duty, he as a rather cute Reindeer – lots of “ah” factor here. In the Act I Peasant pas de trois, I was
taken particularly by Grace Carr.
Arranged by Simon Paterson, the music comes from various sources including several sections from Glazunov’s Four Seasons, some Khachaturian (the lovely waltz from Masquerade for the snow maidens dance near the end of Act I is especially effective), Shostakovich and Bartok. Some of it is well known and will have you humming along, although much of it is less familiar. There are occasional issues where the transitions are not all they might be, but they work surprisingly well as a whole, and certainly do the job for each dance.
Martin Plant and Christopher Moore’s sets are effective, although it was a shame that theatre restrictions meant that we had the same backdrop throughout for this show. Daniel Hope’s costumes are beautiful and would do credit to a much larger company with a larger budget; his blue and lilac flower-decorated Nordic-looking skirts and bodices are especially stunning.
A special note too for the excellent glossy programme and cast list.
Small-scale touring ballet is not easy, but The Snow Queen makes for an enjoyable and entertaining evening. Ballet Theatre UK is doing an important job, and deserves support.
The Snow Queen continues on tour to 31 January 2016. Click here for a full list of dates.
In spring 2016, Ballet Theatre UK will be touring a new production of Pinocchio.