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BalletLorent: Rumpelstiltskin review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘energetically danced’ 

A scene from Rumpelstiltskin. Photo: Bill Cooper A scene from Rumpelstiltskin. Photo: Bill Cooper
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BalletLorent’s reimagining of Rumpelstiltskin expertly weaves together elements of light and dark, love and dysfunction.

In Carol Ann Duffy’s new version of the Brothers Grimm tale, narrated by Ben Crompton, the titular character isn’t a sinister and bearded homunculus but an abandoned prince with magical abilities, cast out into the fields by the grief-stricken king after the queen dies in childbirth.

A strange and unwanted figure among bucolic country folk (played by company members and an inter-generational cast from the local community), Gavin Coward’s Rumpelstiltskin moves awkwardly on the balls of his feet, dropping into feral crouches or scuttles. Only the shepherd’s spirited daughter (Natalie Trewinnard) shows him any kindness, but her father’s foolish claim about gold-spinning soon puts a spanner in the works.

Set to a charming score by Murray Gold, it’s beautifully costumed by Game of Thrones designer Michelle Clapton. Luckily there’s no boiled leather here, but shades of russet, gold and green plus a striking foliage and feather outfit for Rumpelstiltskin. The first act ensemble scenes are particularly lovely, featuring an ingeniously-clad flock of gambolling sheep and lambs (dancers and child performers on all fours) amid unfurling swathes of coloured cloth.

The peril of the second half is excellently articulated in Trewinnard’s antic and out-flung dances of desperation when subject to the impossible demands of both the king (John Kendall, hunched and agonised) and his impish son. Given all the emotional abuse that occurs, there’s a suddenly sunny ending, but it’s more hopeful than saccharine.

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Engrossing and energetically-danced fairytale with a new scenario by Carol Ann Duffy