Snow White – Ballet Lorent style

Snow White and her Queen  mum

“In the cold heart of winter, when snow fell as though the sky was a story that had been ripped into a thousand pieces, a beautiful Queen sat by her window…”
Ballet Lorent‘s new version of Snow White is, in the words of my friend Amanda, (whose birthday treat it was) ‘super ace.’ We saw the premier at Northern Stage this weekend and it was an exceptional piece of theatre and dance. Sticking much more closely to the original Brother’s Grimm story and with none of the sugary Disney version in evidence, this original and quite dark version of Snow White is a study of love, jealousy, envy, good and evil.

Mirror, mirror on the wall..

The wicked step mother in this more faithful version is actually Snow White’s real mother and she is very upset when the magic mirror tells her she is no longer the fairest of them all. She has been surpassed by her own girl, and so she becomes consumed with hatred and jealousy. In one scene she does eat what she thinks is her daughter’s heart when she determines to erase her young beauty and orders the Huntsman to bump her off in the forest. Strong stuff. It’s not her heart of course, it’s the heart of a young doe which the Huntsman kills in place of the good natured girl whom he feels sorry for. He lets her go and she runs through the forest with a herd of deer and woodland animals until she is found by the seven miners who work in the mines under the palace (thy evolve into the more familiar seven dwarfs in later versions) They look after her in their own simple way and tell her never to open the door to a stranger.

Mourning miners

When Snow White’s mother – a tour de force performance by Caroline Reece – finds out she is still alive she sets out to the forest to try and kill her daughter once and for all. First she tries to tie her stays too tight and next she tempts her with the famous poisoned apple (so biblical).

One bad apple

The scene where the Huntsman finds Snow White’s dead body after she bites into the poisoned fruit and then dances with her limp corpse, is extremely clever and weirdly intriguing. He realises his love for her, helpfully dislodges the apple piece from her mouth and, after a happy reunion, takes her hand in marriage. The bright happy ending with Snow White’s wedding dress expanding into a glowing cream parachute which the children can play beneath makes a lovely finale.

A Huntsman hug for poor Snow White

The choreography is very innovative and magically captures the essence of the each of the characters. From the grace and beauty of Snow White to the twisted bodies of the miners who had spent their whole life in confined spaces underground. This is a different explanation for their stunted stature.
Another charming element of the production was the use of local primary school children in quite a number of scenes as village children and small forest animals. I am always a bit wary of involving  local children, it is often hard to incorporate them into a professional production convincingly. But they were all perfectly charming, totally believable and committed small people. They danced and acted all the way through and, as they were of such modest proportions (between 6 and 9 years old) the dancers were able to carry them and move them around and even use them as a physical extension of their own bodies in an interesting way. They were a positive and quite magical enhancement to the show without a doubt.

Children make charming forest creatures

The other thing I really liked was the spare and shrewd narration by Lindsay Duncan, written by Carol Anne Duffy. I often think that a bit of explanation would help a ballet because sometimes you just aren’t sure what’s going on (not that this was an issue with this production) It definitely added to the performance and worked extremely well with occasional little tongue in cheek observations on the foibles of the humans in the story.

Snow White with her miner chums

balletLORENT is a first class UK contemporary dance company based in Newcastle upon Tyne. The troupe regularly tour the UK with wide-ranging and visually stunning productions. Founded in 1993 by Artistic Director Liv Lorent MBE, the company creates fantastical, original beautiful dance that is accessible for everyone. Well I know that now.
Snow White is now on tour around the country finishing at Sadlers Wells at the end of March. It is the third of a trilogy of fairy tales being created by Liv Lorent – Rapunzel was the first which I sadly missed – and I really can’t wait to see what number three will be. Even if you are not a ballet fan you can’t fail to like this. It is accessible for children of all ages but is definitely a treat for us adults too.