Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Rapunzel @ Lowry Theatre, 27.04.14

balletLORENT's portrayal of Rapunzel was a lot darker than I remember from my days spent reading fairytales. One of the Brothers Grimm tales, it concerns the stolen child who is locked in a tower with hair long enough to be used as a rope ladder and, like all good fairy tales, results in a happy ending where Rapunzel is married to her prince and re-united with her family.

The production played at the Lowry Theatre for just two days – 26th and 27th April. In the glorious opening scene, the stage is filled with children of school age and younger, even babes in arms, to reinforce the element of children and family that runs through the whole production. This charming vignette led us to the story's darker themes.

Straight away, the gritty life truths of the pain and suffering of infertility, combined with the loss of a child in any situation, were portrayed effectively in dance and expression. The production did not shy away from these factors no matter how uncomfortable they made you feel. You could almost taste the despondency felt by the Wife character, such was her power.

The story progresses and another of the main characters, the Witch, made many an appearance, as the narrative demands. But the use of a pair of roller skates in one scene means that she never appeared malevolent. Appearing slowly on the stage with her flowing, hooped skirts hiding the skates, she glided in menacingly from nowhere to snatch the baby Rapunzel, leaving broken and grieving parents (Mariusz Raczynski and Debbi Purtill) prostrate on the floor. However, the narrative continued to its much happier and fulfilling conclusion.

It is at this point that special mention should be given to other areas of the production. Costumes were beautifully designed by Michelle Clapton, who has worked on costumes for TV's Game of Thrones. The set, designed by Phil Eddolls, was stark but dominated by magnificent ironwork erections that moved as the narrative dictated. It is to be commended that cast members continually mounted and dismounted these frameworks with perfect grace and athleticism. Bringing in literary greatness, the scenario was written by Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, and the story was comfortingly narrated by Manchester's very own Lesley Sharp.

balletLORENT's productions have previously been cited by The List as “ theatre that manages to engage both your heart and your head”. Given that the production did not avoid the dark themes of childlessness and abduction and pitched these against the joy and light-heartedness of the final reunion, I would agree with that.

Words: Una Cottrell
Photos 1 and 2: Bill Cooper (courtesy of The Lowry)
Photo 3: courtesy of balletLORENT

Rapunzel continues its tour at the end of May in Warwick, followed by Edinburgh in September. For information visit the balletLORENT website here.

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