Newcastle-based company BalletLORENT returns to The Lowry with Rumpelstiltskin, the final part in their fairytale trilogy. It’s a magical, quirky combination of contemporary ballet, theatre and circus that is ideally suited to a family audience. (To give you a flavour of just how quirky it is, at one point we see a sheep dancing in pointe shoes.)
The traditional Brothers Grimm story of a young woman who is helped to spin straw into gold by Rumpelstiltskin the imp, in return for her firstborn child, has been shaped by Carol Ann Duffy into a beautiful and unflinchingly dark tale of grief, rejection and love.
In this version—told with recorded narration to supplement the dance—Rumpelstiltskin is not a malevolent imp but a young prince, abandoned by his grieving father to live alone in the forest. In rescuing the Shepherd’s Daughter from her plight with his power to turn anything into gold, Rumpelstiltskin finds love, acceptance and his true identity.
Company director Liv Lorent’s intensely physical choreography blends many styles and inspirations; from traditional pointe work to stunning acrobatics, dramatic lifts, hula hoops and ribbons, all are ably tackled by the cast and add something to the story. Natalie Trewinnard is particularly impressive as the Shepherd’s Daughter.
Phil Eddoll’s set is a playground disguised as a fairytale kingdom, with a slide, trampoline, castle climbing frame and lots of hiding places. The music, composed by Murray Gold, is a rich and captivating tapestry of folk instruments and choral vocals.
One thing that sets this production apart is its inter-generational cast, which includes local schoolchildren and senior members of the community alongside the professional dancers. Crucially, they aren’t just extras, added in to scenes as an afterthought, but an integral part of the cast—whether dancing, knitting or playing part of the Shepherd’s flock. This creates a genuine feeling of inclusivity, which adds further to Rumpelstiltskin’s heart-warming magic.
Every element of this BalletLORENT production works together in perfect harmony to create the enchanting fairytale world of Rumpelstiltskin. There’s very little technical wizardry—no projection design, no wires or tricks. Instead, the magic is built on the talent of its dancers and creative team, and simple moments like Rumpelstiltskin suddenly emerging from his hiding place under a heap of straw, or the way the long, sparkling threads of gold catch the stage lights.
It could quite possibly be the perfect family show.