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Rapunzel – Northern Stage, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Director and Choreographer: Liv Lorent

Scenario writer: Carol Ann Duffy

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

[Rating:4]

The feeling of “once upon a time”, embraces this production, a fairy story comes to life on stage. A husband steals some ramion flowers for his barren wife from the witch’s garden, who demands their future child as payment. The girl, Rapunzel, is kept by the witch till twelve years old and then locked in a tower. This is a tale about the desire for children and then holding on to them. While a fairy story, it handles the subject maturely and is not condescending or patronising to children in any way. It is honest in its delivery, showing the dark as well as light sides to the story and holds all of the audience throughout. This German fairy story by Brothers Grimm, first performed in 1812, is an adaptation of the 1698 tale, Persinette.

“Most of us remember the tower and the hair, but go a bit hazy about the rest of the story” says Liv Lorent (director and choreographer). The story is narrated (Lesley Sharp) so the understanding is helped. Some of the poetic descriptions were as musical as the orchestra (Northern Sinfonia);

“burning and yearning for a child as a bonfire yearns for a match”, “darkness yearns for a shooting star”. The scenario writer, Carol Ann Duffy Poet laureate, has a reputation for wry interpretations

of myths and classic, this is her first ballet.

Commissioned by Sadler’s Wells and New Writing North in association with Durham Book Festival this production has a list of talented names longer than Rapunzel’s hair. The music by Murray Gold, four times BAFTA nominee and composer for Dr Who and Torchwood, complements the action and mood. The set (Phil Eddolls), a series of metal cut out constructions are moved effortlessly around the stage, almost doing a dance of their own. A stylistic Art Noveau cross between William Morris and Rene McIntosh, they serve for every setting enhancing the fairy story feel. The set comes to life with imaginative lighting (Malcom Rippeth) using the blank back wall to great effect. Some of the shadows and silhouettes created through and by, the cut out panels are stunning. Emmy and BAFTA winner Michele Clapton, costume designer did not let her designs swamp the action; the witches pet ’lizards’ were superb, though the women’s hooped skirts seemed to hinder the wearers and not worth the odd effect they created. The enchantress appeared too plain with no visual indication as to her ‘wickedness’.

The Lorent stamp was evident in the style of movement, incorporating much climbing and swinging, indeed physical theatre often feeling more like gymnastics than dance. While not classical ballet,the movement is superbly choreographed and directed. The use of scooters and skates widened the range of movement and certainly connected with the younger audience members, as did the whole production. Eight dancers took all parts and performed ensemble with a group of talented youngsters.

The Newcastle based Ballet Lorent co-produced Rapunzel with Northern Stage, which is the largest producing theatre in the north east. The theatre has a reputation for fresh productions of modern classics attracting audiences of all ages, Rapunzel is a great example.

In the words of Liv Lorent “This production has been made with an enormous amount of heart and integrity” and it shows, the full house expressing their appreciation accordingly.

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