Review: Rapunzel at Northern Stage, Newcastle
Living North's Arts Editor takes a first-time ballet goer to see balletLORENT’s take on Rapunzel at Northern Stage
As we wait for the lights to go down, we admire the scaffolding-like set on stage and wonder how the cast will utilise it. Little do we expect the skill and strength they have when climbing it and moving it throughout the show, looking graceful at all times. These scaffolds formed the witch’s garden, the parents’ bed and Rapunzel’s tower.
The story starts as we’re introduced to Rapunzel’s parents, who long for a child. While there’s some narration here and there, it’s barely needed as the emotion is clear in the way the two move.
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The drama unfolds when the witch appears, who is also longing for a child. While the music is deeply moving, all is as expected so far, but what we don’t expect to see is an adorable scene where babies are held by their mothers as they dance (and they seem to be enjoying themselves save for one who uttered a little cry – but they’re forgiven since the witch wasn’t far away).
Through the magic of the show these ballet babies grow into talented children who move across the stage showing off their skills (some on bikes, skateboards and even hoverboards). It’s certainly a modern take on ballet, but we’re here for it.
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It’s towards the end of the first half that we’re introduced to a red-headed Rapunzel. She’s quick on her feet and captivates the audience immediately.
As she’s trapped in a tower, the lights fade to black and we’re offered a short interval which I use wisely to get myself another glass of wine. Having not heard a peep from my partner (which is rare), I anxiously ask how he’s finding the show. ‘It’s brilliant!’ he responds, and marvels at how strong the dancers must be to be able to pull off this performance.
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When the second half unfolds, Rapunzel’s hair has grown, as in the fairytale we know and love, but without a happy ending in sight, the darkness continues.
Emotion is high and that’s clear in the movements, and the much heavier sounds. My partner tells me that he was most moved when Rapunzel and the Prince were dancing with her mum and dad making the same movements in their shadow. Personally, I was most moved by the use of light and shade.
Far from a fun fairytale, we agree this is a great introduction to ballet for all members of the family, so it was great to see plenty of children in the audience.