Writer: Carol Ann Duffy
Music: Murray Gold
Director and Choreographer: Liv Lorent
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
It is the time of year when any show title referencing a traditional fairy tale makes one expect it will be a pantomime. Although clearly intended for a young audience balletLORENT’s version of Snow White is not camp but a vivid re-telling of the legend in dance form and is suitable for both children and adults.
Angela Carter retold fairy stories drawing out their sexual undertones. For Snow White poet Carol Ann Duffy takes a modern realistic approach. The Wicked Queen preserves her youthful looks via surgery rather than sorcery and the stunted growth and twisted limbs of the miners is attributed to the harsh conditions in which they labour rather than congenital dwarfism.
The relationship between the Queen and her daughter is shown as close until the widow decides to remarry. In an effort to attract a neighbouring prince she sends him a portrait painted when she was in her prime. The prince mistakes Snow White for the Queen and the aging monarch jealously decides to eliminate her rival.
There are some refreshing reversals of the traditional rôles. It is made clear that the under-appreciated work of the miners generate the pleasures enjoyed by the Queen and her daughter. The Queen is portrayed as careworn as much as evil and Snow White takes a superficial approach to her situation. Rather than regarding her exile from the palace as character building her dancing has a petulant feel as, missing the comforts of home, she throws herself around the stage like a sulky teen in a tantrum.
The stage is dominated by a remarkable piece of furniture from Phil Eddolls. Initially a massive dressing table, the device revolves to become an ominous forest festooned with creepers and the hovel in which Snow White takes refuge. Together with the gloomy lighting by Malcolm Rippeth this creates a gothic twilight atmosphere.
Director and chorographer Liv Lorent emphasises clear and precise storytelling. The passage of time is conveyed simply with falling autumn leaves and snowball fights. Snow White’s maturing is demonstrated by actors of different ages emerging from draws in the massive dressing table set. This is not to suggest that the production lacks imagination- a striking moment arises when the image from the magic mirror leaps forward into life.
Possibly intended for venues more compact than The Lowry, the choreography (devised in collaboration with the Company) is more restrained and less exuberant than one usually sees in dance productions. There are few extravagant gestures and the dancers are kept in tight formations intertwined or in close contact. It makes for a claustrophobic atmosphere even when the core dancers are supplemented by group of children.
The young, pre-teen, dancers make a vital contribution to the production. Rather than simply pad out crowd scenes they scuttle like animals around the stage on all fours adding greatly to the sense of menace as Snow White is abandoned in the eerie woods.
The hint of mischief in the script – we are told that everyone lives happily ever after (well, more or less)- is not entirely reflected in the somewhat solemn production but this remains a striking and original version of the legend
Runs until 6 December 2015 | Photo: Bill Cooper