Opening picture – adults and children playing with big white and red balls, a big metal tree, white long ropes, children dancing a maypole dance.

The stage set for Rapunzel of tall iron railings is dominant throughout the whole piece with clever variations of the same set to create different scenes and atmospheres. That concept is introduced right at the beginning. Aesthetic to look at one moment, restricting and dark the next, there is effective play with black and white shades of the metal by the lighting design.

The action is punctuated with short recorded sequences of reading of the story, the classic fairy tale collected by the brothers Grimm and first published in 1812 in Germany. Retold by Carol Ann Duffy, in this case the emphasis is on the parents of the girl, the girl herself, the prince, and the witch with her dog like creatures.

The costumes are a well thought through addition to support the expression and meaning behind the dance, good to look at and effective, as when the witch hides the girl under her stiff wide dress; the colours in accordance with the lighting and the arrangement of the set create a warm lively image of cream, gold and red, brown and metal grey. Life is intense and earthy in this story, the dynamic and sensual expressions of movement show a whole pallet of emotions in human relationships, hopes, desires, disappointments, threats and the struggle for a happy outcome. The dancers literally have to climb up and down all the time as if to display this in movement.

It all intensifies in the climbing of the tower which obviously also signifies the turning point in the story.  A dramatic scene between the witch,  Rapunzel and her  “long hair”, is sometimes too flat and obvious, such as when using the oversized scissors, this is maybe a concession to the children in the audience.

The music composition supports the dramatic intensity of moods and dynamics without being overpowering, although it seems to lack its own character at times when it becomes predictable in evoking emotions.

Overall  the piece creates beautiful images, short comical and light intervals, as when the boy rushes across the stage with his little scooter, and the playing scenes. On the other hand you can also step into deeper meanings of human struggles and maybe try to identify the symbolic and subconscious, if you wish. But as it is meant to be a piece from and for adults and children alike, it perhaps doesn’t really intend to go too far beyond the obvious or below the surface.

This is understandable and being an educator myself I empathize with the wish to be inclusive on different levels (engaging children and adults, professionals and amateurs in the process on stage and in the audience), and I can imagine the intensity of work and preparation of this concept. My question is only if there is the danger of compromising too much. There is a great potential in this story to be explored, on more than one level.

But this doesn’t belittle the pleasure of watching the images and intensity that were presented to me.

Lizzy Spight