Scottish Ballet return to The Festival Theatre Edinburgh with Scottish Ballet Dances Stravinsky and two highly contrasting works – “The Fairy’s Kiss” and “The Rite of Spring”. It’s been far too long an absence on the Festival Theatre stage from Scottish Ballet (I last saw them in their 2016 Christmas production of “Hansel & Gretel” ), and this was a more than welcome return from one of my favourite dance companies.
The Fairy’s Kiss is a rare return to the stage of one of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s early and seminal works from 1960, and so much of what was to follow in a brilliant career can be seen here in this work. Scottish Ballet are with great respect here marking the 25th Anniversary of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s death (other ballet companies across the UK are also celebrating this landmark year). This production has been a bit of a “dance archaeology” project, and with the support of Lady MacMillan, dance notator Diana Curry has been commissioned to complete the piece from surviving notation and MacMillan film archive from 1962. Along the way, surviving original dancers have been consulted, including Donald MacLeary for whom the role of the “Young Man” was originally created. Donald MacLeary was also able to spend rehearsal time with Scottish Ballet dancers and give his personal insight into the role.
Performing the principal roles in tonight’s performance were
Young Man – Andrew Peasgood
Gypsy – Mia Thompson
Fiancee - Bethany Kingsley-Garner
Mother – Sophie Martin
Fairy – Constance Devernay
Probably the most surprising thing about this performance is how little the choreography has aged, and how completely innovative it must have been to an audience in 1960. This is a bold and darker vision of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Ice Maiden and you can still feel the power and the emotions of this story in this new performance even after all of these years.
There was an short after the show talk tonight, and the one thing that was obvious at this was not only the high regard in which the dancers hold the work of Sir Kenneth MacMillan, but also their sheer pleasure at getting the opportunity to perform in “The Fairy’s Kiss”. This work for them is like bringing dance history alive, and that pleasure was obvious in this performance.
Our second work, The Rite of Spring” has been choreographed by Christopher Hampson and distilled down to the core essence of the two brothers and their encounter with Faith and Death. With an updating to what an audience would readily identify with now, Christopher Hampson re-examines our brothers’ moral conflict and the concept of a violent sacrifice. Performing this work in a physically gruelling 40 minute performance were
Faith/Death - Sophie Martin
Younger Brother –Constant Vigier
Older Brother - Christopher Harrison
This second work is a vast contrast to our first work, but connecting both is the visionary music of Igor Stravinsky, albeit in two very contrasting forms. Even within the work itself there are almost mirror contrasts here between the beauty of the brothers’ initial relationship and the darkness and ugliness of the later stages of it. Floating effortlessly grace-like throughout the two, an almost ethereal Sophie Martin contrasting very effectively against the sheer physical presence of our two brothers.
There is a fine line here though of the contemporary imagery of our two brothers, and whilst underlining a very physical and visually brutal relationship, there is the risk of “over-use” of this imagery and by default the potential de-sensitisation of an audience to its intended effect.
Either way, two very different and distinctive performances that mark a more than welcome return for me to Scottish Ballet on stage here in Edinburgh
Review by Tom King