This winter, unwrap a tasty new treat with the world premiere of Scottish Ballet’s fantastical Hansel & Gretel.
This delightfully inventive, brand new Hansel & Gretel takes creative twists and turns inspired by the Grimm Brother's famous fairy tale – and the stories and imagination of the people of Scotland, gathered from a year-long country-wide initiative called Hansel & Gretel, and Me (see Notes for more information).
Touring to Glasgow (10 – 28 December), Edinburgh (8 – 11 January), Aberdeen (15 – 18 January), Inverness (22 – 25 January), Newcastle (29 January – 1 February) and Belfast (5 – 8 February)* Scottish Ballet’s Hansel & Gretel will feature talented young children from each of the cities on tour, who will perform on stage with Scotland’s national dance company.
As well as the main show, Scottish Ballet will also be offering Wee Hansel & Gretel – a wee version of a big ballet in a specially adapted hour-long performance for pre-school children and their families. Wee Hansel & Gretel will be performed in Glasgow (20 & 23 December), in Edinburgh, sponsored by Baillie Gifford (10 January) and in Aberdeen (17 January)*
Once upon a time there was a town where children had mysteriously been disappearing, one by one, ever since the arrival of a new teacher at the local school. She seemed nice enough and the children certainly enjoyed her stories, but they especially liked the seemingly endless supply of sweets she gave them.
“It’s an exciting time for Scottish Ballet,” comments Chief Executive Cindy Sughrue.
“Hansel & Gretel is our Artistic Director Christopher Hampson’s first choreography for the company and Scottish Ballet’s first new Christmas ballet in six years - it promises a carousel of delicious treats from start to finish.”
“I’d had ideas about Hansel & Gretel as a ballet for a number of years. But it wasn’t until I joined Scottish Ballet and realised the potential to involve the people of Scotland that I began to think about bringing the ballet to the stage in a different way” says Artistic Director Christopher Hampson.
“Working with the company’s Education department we undertook a huge research and development project called Hansel & Gretel, and Me which has allowed me and designer Gary Harris to draw on common themes and add some interesting twists to the story.
“We found that the children we worked with were really drawn to the forest birds and so we’ve incorporated a gang of Ravens into our production. We ran an adult creative writing competition with the National Library of Scotland and author Louise Welsh, asking what it might be like to be part of a town where all the children have disappeared – this helped us shape the roles of the Mother and Father – and our Woodlands Performances inspired the scenes in which Hansel and Gretel are alone in the forest. But, perhaps the most memorable was an early primary school visit to hear a storyteller take the children on an incredible journey through the tale. You’ll see that this starts the story for the ballet too and the storyteller becomes a very important part of how we bring Hansel and Gretel to life.”
Former dancer-turned-designer Gary Harris has worked with Christopher before, but this is their first fairy-tale ballet together.
“The design influences are really varied,” laughs Gary.
“The production is set in a time that has that warm ‘Bisto-gravy family’ feel – but there is also some real fairy-tale sparkle and even costumes inspired by the glamour of Grace Kelly.
“We decided we wanted to keep the whole thing in the forest, quite a dark, black forest which remains throughout the whole work and plays its own part – completely surrounding Hansel and Gretel. There are wonderful moments including toys that come to life and an incredible big banquet which becomes completely over the top and magical.”
And helping to bring the magical beings to life is make-up sponsor M∙A∙C who has been working with Gary to create the fantastical looks of each character.
“I loved Gary Harris’ designs – it was clear that make-up would play an important part in his vision” explains M∙A∙CSenior Make-Up Artist Caroline Donnelly.
“With so many characters and some dancers performing more than one role, my challenge was to create looks that could be adapted easily, quickly and still look incredible. I’ve created special M∙A∙Cface charts (like paint-by-numbers for the face) and will be teaching the dancers how to recreate these looks themselves for each performance.”
With Hansel & Gretel comes the famous Engelbert Humperdinck score - which will be performed live in a unique reinterpretation by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.
“The Humperdinck score is charmingly melodic and has a wonderful dancing quality especially in the scenes for Hansel and Gretel,” says Scottish Ballet’s Principal Conductor Richard Honner.
“While we’ve shortened some sections that might be too repetitious for dance, we’ve reordered some others to fit the ballet’s scenario. In the opera version The Witch only appears in the third act, but in our production her presence is felt throughout. We have sought to emphasize the Witch as a catalyst for all the action by opening the ballet with the Witch’s Ride and have provided her with additional music throughout the production to ensure she is never forgotten.
“Humperdinck’s music is charming and melodic and frequently rises to moments of real inspiration so we have also incorporated movements from The Sleeping Beauty, The Bluebird, and one of his other operas Königskinder.”
Audiences are invited to Get Closer to the company on tour with a number of free pre and post show talks with members of the Artistic and Music teams, Family Insights with the opportunity to see costumes and set designs close-up, Wee Hansel & Gretel workshops for young children - and even a range of special Christmas Ballet Cafes with coffee, cake and conversation – and the chance to dance! Scottish Ballet is proud to be the first dance company in Europe that offered exclusive audio-described performances and touch tours and will be once again presenting both for Hansel & Gretel.* Visit the Kids Zone at www.scottishballet.co.uk for lots more fun facts, games, challenges and even a recipe for a special Witches Brew.