23 May 2014
Milton Keynes Theatre, 11.30am
There was a packed house for the latest children’s production from the Northern Ballet Theatre.
Yes, this was probably helped by the fact there were only going to be two performances but for both, it was decided to open up the Upper Circle due to demand so it does show there is an appetite for this kind of show.
Producers take note!
A version of this production was on CBeebies over Easter and if our house is anything to go by, it’s a good job programmes on Sky+ don’t seem to wear out easily!
V’s knowledge of it showed as she regularly pointed out differences in props – mainly to do with the pigs’ houses – so we had to have a serious post-show discussion on the way home about the differences between TV and theatre and their relative scope for sets. I’m not sure she took it all in.
I don’t think I need to summarise the plot as it’s pretty well known – three pigs – three houses – hungry wolf – huffing and puffing etc etc – and this production recreates the familiar story, simply and humourously with a cast of five in a perfect 35 minute length.
Choreography by Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson is stylish and the dancers clearly interpret exactly what is happening and how they feel about it.
As well as simplicity and familiarity, its appeal for children is heightened as the colourful characters complete with snouts and curly tails, look like they have danced straight out of the pages of a picture book, while the set works cleverly.
It’s a classic good versus evil tale but while the wolf is clearly a baddie, he is hapless enough to take the edge off any real scariness.
The musical commentary which includes ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ by Frank Churchill and Charles Williams’ ‘The Devil’s Galop’ is also an accesible introduction to classics.
A sign this full theatre was completely engaged were the numerous warnings to the pigs that the wolf was about and the laughter when he got his come-uppance!
Ballet is perfect for children. For a start there are thousands of youngsters – not just girls – across the country who start lessons at an early age and love to see what is possible if they keep it up!
It crosses any kind of age or language barrier because a story is clearly told by actions so even the youngest will know what’s going on, while the spectacular way they move their bodies fascinates.
The only problem I have had since is trying to stop V going en pointe aged 4 and without shoes or socks!
Plus, at just over half an hour, this is a much shorter introduction to the world of theatre than panto – which let’s face it, can sometimes go on a bit!
Northern Ballet were funded to put on three short ballets for children and they won a BAFTA for their first – last year’s Ugly Duckling. We hope they will be able to do a lot more.
The last in this series, the Elves and the Shoemaker, premieres in Leeds this autumn – we can’t wait!
V’s Verdict – as dictated!
I did think about how the houses were different from the TV show but I still liked them. And I liked the show and I loved the one on TV. I liked the bit where they wiggled their bottoms and when the wolf got stuck in the washing basket because it was funny. I liked the gnomes because one of them moved because it was the wolf in disguise. Thank you for putting on a show and I hope you enjoyed doing it.
Run time: 35 minutes
Age range: Totally child-friendly performance. I would say any age has the capacity to be captivated.
Other stuff: Free good quality programme handed out!
More info on Northern Ballet website.