This riotous and colourful production had a lot to recommend it. The Rumplestiltskin fairytale was given a new twist, with the title role a more rounded character and sympathetic backstory than in traditional renditions. This was a clever device (with credit to Carol Ann Duffy as Scenario Writer), as the storyline became less about old-fashioned heroes and villains, and more about values such as family, community and embracing difference and diversity.

The choreography itself (developed by Liv Lorent in collaboration with the company dancers) was expressive and full of character and grace; however it was a shame that the space was small and crowded with scenery, meaning that larger jumps and gestures had to be cut short, and that scenes with many cast members on stage felt a little crowded. But the scenery was used interactively with lots of climbing, pivoting and dancing at different levels, which made inventive use of the smaller space.  Special mention must be made for the children in the cast, who made fabulous efforts and were a delight. In particular the young Rumplestiltskin, played by Auden Danely, was beautifully depicted and tugged at the heartstrings with his realistic portrayal of a shunned little boy in the playground. It was also refreshing to see adults of varying ages depicting village life through the generations.

The visual aspects were also very appealing: although the colours were bright and clearly designed to appeal to a young audience, all of the brighter hues (greens, pinks and oranges in particular) were carefully chosen to reflect natural, historically appropriate tones. Although there was lots of contrast, there wasn’t a hint of synthetically bright neon colour, and this gave a warm and consistent feel to the costumes and set design. I also particularly liked the use of pointe shoes to create sheep hooves in one costume – an inventive use of a traditional element of ballet costume, used in a fun way to engage children. The narration, though designed to aid understanding of the plot, didn’t feel obtrusive or patronising to an adult. The music, too, from Murray Gold (of Doctor Who fame) matched the emotions of each scene well. Perhaps because it was scored with children in mind, the music was programmatic in style and not overly complex; but again, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

Overall this was great fun to watch, and I can well imagine that for a child’s first ballet production, this would be a very appealing introduction to the art form. I would particularly recommend it to anyone with little ones in tow.

Jess Ryan-Phillips

8th June 2018

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