Scottish Ballet’s 50th anniversary year draws to a close with this seasonal spectacular, making itself at home in Edinburgh throughout December and then touring to other locations in Scotland and Newcastle until February.
For such a grand undertaking, something special was required, and with the strong lead performances and the seasonal grandeur of the sets, choreographer Christopher Hampson and designer Lez Brotherston have certainly delivered.
From a wintery town fair to a travelling circus, a bandit encampment and finally the palace of the Snow Queen herself, Brotherston conjures a series of old-fashioned tableaux as detailed as chocolate box paintings.
Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairytale, meanwhile, is just a little too complex to be told entirely through movement, so characters and their arcs are slimmed and reworked. The core of the piece pits Constance Devernay’s regal Snow Queen – the power and flexibility of her pointe work lending the character an otherworldly air – against her runaway sister the Summer Princess, who lives among humans as the pickpocket Lexi, performed with puckish energy by Kayla-Maree Tarantolo.
Between the pair inadvertently step young lovers Gerda and Kai, played with innocent elegance by Bethany Kingsley-Garner and Andrew Peasgood. The latter character is coveted by both Lexi and the Queen, and Gerda’s journey to rescue him is pleasingly punctuated by meetings with troupes of ensemble and child performers led by high-quality soloists.
With such a large cast, the piece does feel somewhat busy, and the most striking set-piece is a death scene of brusque finality, but the ambition and quality of the piece rings true and offers a high note on which to end Scottish Ballet’s celebratory year.