Magazine article The Spectator

Dance the End of Innocence

Magazine article The Spectator

Dance the End of Innocence

Article excerpt

Hansel and Gretel Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House As far as memory serves, in my 46 years of being both in and at the ballet I have encountered only seven ballet adaptations of the Grimm Brothers' Hansel and Gretel. Alas, each was less memorable than the one before. Happily, the new version by the Royal Ballet's first artist-in-residence, Liam Scarlett, which had its premiere last week, has dispensed with the dance numbers for cuddly forest animals and cute gingerbread men that turned the versions of his predecessors into laughable creations. Instead, he has opted to exploit the dark tones of the Grimms' narrative - abandoned children, cannibalism, a hyperbolic excess of unhealthily sugary food, etc. - and align the story, now set in the splendidly kitsch Fifties, with the horrific realities of abused youngsters we are daily exposed to in the news.

Most of the magic has thus gone, and the only supernatural being is the Sandman, seen here as an overgrown ventriloquist's dummy (inspired by the famous and somewhat unsettling Charlie McCarthy), who lures little Hansel away from home. We all know what happens when a pretty boy - who is morbidly attached to his teddy and constantly overprotected by a strong-minded sister - decides to follow a strange gentleman into the night. Forget the gingerbread house with marzipan tiles and candyfloss windows. He and his sister enter a creepy replica of the old shed I have at the bottom of my garden to meet the local weirdo.

The 'witch' is a peroxide-blond neurotic man, lost in a sort of mentally troubled fatal attraction for the dummy. He shares his abode with the body of a dead woman whose head is stuck in the oven. Cliches and predictability abound in this The Lovely Bones meets Psycho as well as one of the many scary movies in which the ventriloquist becomes the victim of his own puppet. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.