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Hansel & Gretel (Royal Ballet at the Linbury Theatre)


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here is a little taster of what's to come:

 

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Liam Scarlett's Hansel & Gretel - Leanne Cope, James Hay
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr


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Liam Scarlett's Hansel & Gretel - 'Witch' and Sandman (Brian Maloney, Steven McRae)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr


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Liam Scarlett's Hansel & Gretel - Father and Step-mother (Bennet Gartside and Laura Morera)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 


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Set from DanceTabs - Royal Ballet: Hansel & Gretel
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

By kind Permission of the Royal Opera House

Edited by zxDaveM
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Aren't pictures embargoed until after the premiere?

 

If pictures were embarged then they wouldn't be here or on DanceTabs - we take the contracts we sign very seriously. Three images were released originally because it takes time to do a full gallery - pleased to say that is now done and there are 24 more images to see:

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dancetabs/sets/72157633447325430/detail/

 

 

Here is a direct link to Flickr H&G gallery

 

Nice one Dave - great pics!

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Forgot to say the most important thing - So what do people think?

My v brief thoughts:
In the interval last night I was pretty unique in largely liking what I saw. But by the end I had had enough - it does drone on and the partnering is not so different. Thought the designs and score wonderful and stellar performances from Morera and McRae. The false and real ending needs sorting out. Its also a very long way removed from the original H&G story I think - it unhelpfully wrong foots you. Sweet Violets was a better ad for Scarlett in my book. BUT good to see the Linbury being used in such an interesting and innovative way - more chamber works please.

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I enjoyed being wrong-footed, although Scarlett's subversion did not ultimately deliver what it promised. Too hampered by 

repetition & film references. I thought all performances tremendous and loved seeing the Linbury space so totally transformed.

Edited by Josephine
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If pictures were embarged then they wouldn't be here or on DanceTabs - we take the contracts we sign very seriously.

 

 Not a comment on DanceTabs, you or Dave.  More on what appears to be a change of policy from the RB press office where premieres are concerned.

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 Not a comment on DanceTabs, you or Dave.  More on what appears to be a change of policy from the RB press office where premieres are concerned.

 

I'm not sure about that. Certainly 'Alice' was very much under raps but I'm not sure any other RB ones have been - never registered as a constraint. But in the past we were sometimes slower anyway around images. ROH2 (RIP) had an embargo on 'Metamorphosis' but sadly didn't tell us until we released a gallery - and we took down as soon as we were told.

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I'm not sure about that. Certainly 'Alice' was very much under raps but I'm not sure any other RB ones have been - never registered as a constraint. But in the past we were sometimes slower anyway around images. ROH2 (RIP) had an embargo on 'Metamorphosis' but sadly didn't tell us until we released a gallery - and we took down as soon as we were told.

 

The two shows which were on my mind!

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Forgot to say the most important thing - So what do people think?

 

My v brief thoughts:

In the interval last night I was pretty unique in largely liking what I saw. But by the end I had had enough - it does drone on and the partnering is not so different. Thought the designs and score wonderful and stellar performances from Morera and McRae. The false and real ending needs sorting out. Its also a very long way removed from the original H&G story I think - it unhelpfully wrong foots you. Sweet Violets was a better ad for Scarlett in my book. BUT good to see the Linbury being used in such an interesting and innovative way - more chamber works please.

My very brief thoughts.The sets were excellent although the traverse arrangement restricted the sightlines badly from some parts of the auditorium where you would normally expect a clear view. The recorded music was atmospheric. The dancers performed with commitment. Ultimately though I found the evening one of the most deeply unsatisfying I can remember at the RoH. Full of tired cliches, eg Laura Morera in a slutty nightdress with black stockings and suspender belt... please. The choreography was entirely unmememorable and interminably repetitive. Liam has done some wonderful abstract work for the main stage but IMO he hasn't found his way yet with narrative ballet: perhaps he needs to try something lighter than the dark, violent storylines of the last two pieces.

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From what I've read, I wonder whether the age recommendation of 12 and above is actually too low, but perhaps I'm just an over-protective parent. Certainly, the subject matter has a particular resonance, given recent events. Hansel and Gretal is a pretty disturbing fairytale anyway and I've noticed that it has largely disappeared from collections of stories for children.

 

I wonder what Christopher Hampson's version for Scottish Ballet, to be premiered later this year, will be like. I assume that it *is* intended to be child-friendly.

Edited by aileen
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It is rather telling that so few people have posted here about last night's performance.

 

Oh dear; oh dear! How very disappointing it was. After Sweet Violets many of us must have arrived with really high hopes that Liam would be able to give us an updated take on Hansel and Gretel. But, to my eyes, it failed on so many counts: the characterisation was surprisingly weak and inadequately conveyed through dance; despite strong portrayals by Leanne and James, it was difficult to connect with the two main characters and their story; the movement felt cramped by the (albeit highly inventive) set - an especial pity as innovative, expansive pas de deux are usually Liam's strong suit; and, while pleasing enough to the ear, the music was too 'samey' to support the scenario and to provide dark undertones.

 

It was interesting to experience the Linbury being used 'in the round' (as for Draft Works) and, this time, on so many levels also. But, from where I was sitting, it was not possible to see whole the stage without a lot of uncomfortable leaning forward. And having, as a constant backdrop, the faces of Kevin O'Hare and other recognisables sitting in the reverse seats was far from ideal.

 

It gives me no pleasure to write in this way and I remain a firm admirer of Liam's talents. But, again, oh dear, oh dear......!!!

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True. There are some really disturbing so-called fairytales which can be found in anthologies which are not aimed at children. There is one called something like Donkeyskin in which the heroine escapes from her newly widowed father who is trying to marry her. Much has been written about the origins and purpose of fairytales. They certainly seem to lend weight to the view that child abuse, neglect and abduction have always existed and are not a modern aberration as some commentatators like to claim. Interestingly, I read somewhere that many of the stories which the Brothers Grimms collected featured wicked *mothers* rather than wicked stepmothers but they found this unpalatable and changed the wicked mothers into wicked stepmothers.

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I read somewhere that many of the stories which the Brothers Grimms collected featured wicked *mothers* rather than wicked stepmothers but they found this unpalatable and changed the wicked mothers into wicked stepmothers.

 

There's a note on this in the translation of the story I linked to above.

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True. There are some really disturbing so-called fairytales which can be found in anthologies which are not aimed at children. There is one called something like Donkeyskin in which the heroine escapes from her newly widowed father who is trying to marry her. Much has been written about the origins and purpose of fairytales. They certainly seem to lend weight to the view that child abuse, neglect and abduction have always existed and are not a modern aberration as some commentatators like to claim. Interestingly, I read somewhere that many of the stories which the Brothers Grimms collected featured wicked *mothers* rather than wicked stepmothers but they found this unpalatable and changed the wicked mothers into wicked stepmothers.

 

Yes, Donkeyskin and its variants were certainly one of the ones I was thinking about: the theme of incest was certainly never far away, (and I don't think unwilling brides were, either).  And I'm pretty sure I read that one in one of Andrew Lang's "Colour" fairytale books when I was a child.  I have to say I don't remember being traumatised by any of the seedier aspects of any of the fairytales I read then, and certainly not by the witch planning to eat Hansel :).  Whether that was because they always had happy endings (apart from the evil stepmother who had her eyes pecked out by crows/was shut into a barrel full of nails, and rolled down the hill into the river where she drowned if the nails hadn't finished her off first/whatever), or whether children are more resilient to what they read than we sometimes give them credit for, I don't know.

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I read those "Colour" fairytale books too. I wonder if they still exist. I don't have any copies, and I'm pretty sure that I borrowed them from the town library. I think that parents can be a bit inconsistent in that they happily allow their children to read some rather dark (as well as violent) fairytales but are also very strict about what their children are allowed to watch on television. I can't remember whether I read Donkeyskin or similarly disturbing stories as a child, but I do remember that I wasn't allowed to watch Poldark, let alone Bouquet of Barbed Wire, as a teenager.

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I loved Steven McRea's Sandman, 3 parts creepy, one part sad, 100% awesome. Sure, there is room for improvement for the overall production, at the same time I liked the storytelling and quietly threatening atmosphere.

 

I wasn't too bowled over by the music. At times it was fitting, but there seemed to be long periods of the same motif being repeated over and over with little variation.

 

For the first 20 minutes I couldn't quite shake the expectation that they'll either break into song or start talking any minute.

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Apologies if this is posted already - but just seen this cast change on the ROH web-thingy:

 

 

For performances of Hansel and Gretel on 8, 10 and 11 May (evening) James Hay will replace Paul Kay due to injury.

For performances on 9 and 11 May (matinee) Ryoichi Hirano will replace Zenaida Yanowsky as the Witch while, due to injury, Johannes Stepanek will replace Thomas Whitehead.

The rest of the casting remains the same.

Edited by Janet McNulty
Paul, I've edited this to try and make to font larger for old timers like me to read. Don't know what has happened to the font!
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I found Hansel and Gretel very absorbing tonight. For some reason, it felt more like a play than a ballet but this was not a problem for me. The choreography was limited somewhat by the restricted space and the small cast (no big leaps or group dancing, for example) and so it was really important to have a strong storyline and first rate acting, which I felt that there was. I'm not generally keen on adults pretending to be children but, once I had got over this and allowed myself to believe that James Hay and Leanne Cope *were* children, I was drawn into the story. I thought that the characterisation was very good. Steven's character was complex: he was an abuser but also childlike and damaged in some way (I think that Liam must have watched a few episodes of Criminal Minds!) The subject matter was very uncomfortable, but I felt that the original fairytale lent itself naturally to Liam's treatment of it and that the interpretation had integrity. The set was ingenious and I personally had a good view from my seat although others have complained about the in-the-round staging. I liked the score. It was very filmic, and a little generic, but was very successful in creating the necessary atmosphere. The decision to stage the ballet in the smaller and more enclosed space of the Linbury added to the atmosphere and, being so close to the action, I had the uncomfortable sensation of feeling that I was a voyeur.

 

IMO, H&G was more successful than Sweet Violets, which I didn't like that much. It was easy to follow and felt complete although the ending was (satisfyingly) ambiguous. The subject matter is certainly disturbing but there have been plenty of ballets with controversial subject matter before.

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I've just realised that the Witch was played by Brian Maloney rather than Steven McRae, which surprised me as I thought that s/he looked just like Steven (small and slightly built) albeit with blond hair. The dancer playing the Sandman seemed to be taller and broader than I imagine Steven to be.

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I enjoyed this immensely last night. All my previous ballets have been viewed from high up in the Amphitheatre in the ROH so I guess a lot of the enjoyment for me came from the much closer involvement, with the dancers just being a few rows in front.

 

When Gretel made a break for it but was then caught by the Witch and carried off with her arms stretched towards the audience she seemed to be looking straight at me and it was a great temptation to jump up and save her!

 

I especially liked the use of the lighting to pause the action to allow little side dances, the music was good at the time but fairly forgettable now.

 

All in all very entertaining  - even the false start at the beginning when we had to wait twenty minutes while the computer was re-booted  :lol: .

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I thought last night was an exciting theatrical experience, took me a while to get used to the Linbury set-up but think I must have had one of the best views from the front row of the Upper Gallery, could see everything although I had to bend over the railing sometimes.  I imagine some people had horrible views.

 

The ballet is dominated by the spectacular set design and lighting effects which worked perfectly, more than can be said of the sound system at first! The music was great at establishing  moods but didn't lend itself to dance particularly, because of this and the lack of floorspace the dance element took second place, although there were some pieces that I remember, Steven McRae's solo's especially the first when he emerged through the fridge, the pdd for Laura Morera and Bennet Gartside that starts the second act, and a very creepy pdd for Brian Maloney and James Hay in the second act! The second act was shorter and tighter than the first, I'm still not exactly sure about the ending though.  What really stays in my mind is that spooky shed at the bottom of the garden!

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