balletLORENT’s Rumpelstiltskin, is an engrossing story of love, parental betrayal and redemption. Rumpelstiltskin, a little boy rejected by his father the King following the death of the child’s mother, is cast out to live in the woods and hedgerows. Only the Shepherd’s Daughter is kind to him. They grow up, and when the Shepherd foolishly boasts that his daughter (Natalie Trewinnard) can spin straw into gold, the miserly King sets her to work, threatening to slaughter their sheep if she fails. (This is particularly poignant as the sheep are played by small children on all fours with sheepskins on their backs). Rumpelstiltskin (Gavin Coward) appears and for three long nights spins the straw into gold, in exchange for a ring, a kiss, and finally her first born child when she marries his father. When Rumpelstiltskin comes to claim the baby (there is an implication that the child is his), she breaks the contract by guessing his name. The outcast prince is re-united with his father, who conveniently dies, enabling the couple to marry.

Narration is minimal, and the cast use their bodies to convey the complex emotional, social and dark psychological truths that are intrinsic to the fairytale. There is cruelty: the little boy prince is torn from his rocking horse, and clings pathetically to the father that beats him; the idyllic playground where small children skip and play hopscotch becomes an arena of rejection. As Rumpelstiltskin grows up, he lingers on the fringes, an outsider offering the children handmade hoops, balls and dolls, which their mothers politely hand back (‘stranger danger’).

The movement and music convey mood and emotion with an apparent spontaneity that is almost always harnessed to narrative purpose. Stylistically, the dance draws on ballet, contemporary, folk dance, acrobatics and circus skills, and demands balance, strength, flexibility and courage (they climb the high sets). There is a delightful divertissement, when the King’s subjects entertain him with a series of ‘turns’.

The show was filmed in performance and despite the close ups, the experience is not unlike watching in the theatre, even including a ten-minute interval. The production is visually stunning, with some spectacular lighting. There is plenty for young families to enjoy, not least the fun of watching small children on stage, alongside drama, suspense, tragedy, and finally reconciliation and a happy ending. It is available online until Thursday 9 April at https://www.facebook.com/SadlersWells/.

Maggie Watson

5th April 2020