What a stunning year we’ve had from Scottish Ballet, a company that has repeatedly reaped the artistic benefits from taking what (in the current climate of austerity at least) are some real risks. They have certainly been bold and uncompromising creatively, which has kept them fresh, vital and enthusiastic, and kept their audience’s sensibilities alive.
They end the year no less vibrantly, with a revival of Christopher Hampson’s Hansel & Gretel, which was his first production for Scottish Ballet and created in 2013. Based on the well-known fairy tale (which was collected by the Brothers Grimm), and set to music by the German composer Engelbert Humperdinck (primarily from his opera of the same name), the tale has been subtly transformed by Hampson, while maintaining its accessibility.
The choreography, while firmly grounded in traditional ballet, shows many of Hampson’s hallmarks. It can be achingly sensitive at times, and yet has moments of wit, glamour, and indeed pure showbiz. His love of ballet and spectacle are evident: it feels like a celebration of all things dance.
Andrew Peasgood and Bethany Kingsley-Garner are brilliant as Hansel and Gretel, roles that could be so easily overdone. Kingsley-Garner in particular, brings real nuance to Gretel, a complex mix of youthful, conflicting emotions, underpinned by the boundless, real joy, that only children can show.
If there is a problem, it is with the music. Humperdinck’s score is not particularly inspiring even in its original form, and this edited version lacks real articulation: it tends towards becoming wallpaper. Lack of musical form, occasionally leads to lack of choreographic structure, with a resulting loss of momentum. However, Scottish Ballet’s amazing energy, makes this far less of a problem than it would otherwise be.
With wonderful dancing and great set and costume design, this is a real festive treat to end the old year with, or indeed (if you catch it later), begin the new one with.