Seen at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh;
playing Pitlochry Festival Theatre,
February 26 & 27
Review by Mark Brown
The New Year brings to Scotland two touring productions from ballet companies in the north of England. No sooner will Newcastle-based Ballet Lorent’s Snow White have visited Edinburgh and Pitlochry than Northern Ballet will bring its version of George Orwell’s 1984 to Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre (March 31 to April 2).
I had the good fortune to catch 1984 when it opened in Leeds last autumn and I can recommend it highly. Memorably original, it is a work of brave, bold narrative ballet.
Sadly, Ballet Lorent’s take on the fairytale of Snow White (which played in Edinburgh last weekend) cannot be recommended with quite as much enthusiasm. This despite the involvement of poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy (who has written a crisp and dryly comic new version of the story) and superb actor Lindsay Duncan (whose recorded voice narrates the tale).
There are, it should be said, numerous admirable elements in the piece. The stark and bleak visual aesthetic is the perfect partner to Duffy’s text and Murray Gold’s stylishly cinematic musical score. All three combine to give the piece a darker, classier look than you will find in Disney’s famous animated film.
The design combines best with Liv Lorent’s choreography in the scenes involving the miners. Bent and broken from their labours in the hellish mine beneath the Queen’s castle, they swarm around Snow White on ingenious implements fashioned from wooden walking sticks, but which double as pickaxes.
However, despite such fine elements, the production somehow contrives to underwhelm. Lovely though Duffy’s version of the tale is, Duncan’s fine narration rarely connects with a choreography that is very often too modest for the Festival Theatre stage.
There are simply no great set piece dances in the show; unless you count the Huntsman’s clumsy pas de deux with Snow White’s corpse, which looks disquietingly, and unintentionally, necrophiliac.
The involvement of a supporting ensemble of 12 local schoolchildren is charming and commendable. One only wishes they were involved in a more accomplished, more robust production.
A slightly truncated version of this review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on January 31, 2016
© Mark Brown