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Scottish Ballet’s rollercoaster of scandal, desire and destruction heads for His Majesty’s

Scottish Ballet
Scottish Ballet's bold and powerful The Scandal At Mayerling is coming to Eden Court in Inverness and His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen.

A dysfunctional royal family at the heart of a crumbling empire as nationalism is on the rise … it’s a story that could easily be ripped from today’s headlines.

Yet Scottish Ballet’s latest work, The Scandal At Mayerling, is a re-imagining of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s iconic work from 1978, based on shocking real events from 1889.

And it promises to be a powerful show, that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats with its story of dark desire and bleak destruction that works as a searing comment on power and privilege, said Christopher Hampson, artistic director and CEO of Scottish Ballet.

A man on stage during The Scandal At Mayerling, crouching with a skull in his hand
Scottish Ballet’s The Scandal At Mayerling is a gripping story of desire and destruction based on true events.

“This is high drama and is a rollercoaster ride through to the end as the story rips along at a great pace,” he said, of the ballet which arrives at His Majesty’s in Aberdeen from Thursday May 5 to Saturday May 7.

Scottish Ballet: The Scandal At Mayerling is ‘incredibly exhilarating’

“It’s incredibly exhilarating and we’ve had many audience members contacting us to say what a fantastic evening they’ve had but very unexpected that has left them with a lot to think about.

Mayerling is set in the opulent courts of Vienna in 1889 and charts the true story of anti-hero Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose privileged lifestyle saw him embrace mistresses, alcohol and drugs to excess.

As his mental health declined he became obsessed with death, leading to the “scandal” when he and his teenage mistress were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide at a hunting lodge in Mayerling.

Dancers lying on the stage, with the woman hugging the man from behind. He is holding a gun prop to his head
There are powerful themes at play in The Scandal At Mayerling staged by Scottish Ballet.

His death saw succession pass to Archduke Franz Ferdinand, increasing tension between Austrian and Hungarian factions in the empire. The Archduke’s assassination in Sarajevo sparked the First World War.

Dark tale is told in a mesmerising and bold ballet

Christopher said: “It’s very topical for the world order today as we see empires declining and other empires taking their place, we see autocracy, we see popularism versus democracy and the tensions that are flying around the world right now. You know, 150-odd years later, it’s still going on.”

This powerful story is told as a mesmerising and bold ballet.

Mayerling, reworked from legendary choreographer MacMillan’s original, features nine intense and dramatic duets between Prince Rudolf, his wife, his mistresses and his mother. All of this is played out to a lush and romantic score to the music of Franz Liszt.

Christopher said: “It’s a marathon, both for the dancers and I should say the orchestra as well. In particular, the person who dances Crown Prince Rudolf is barely off the stage. It really allows that principal dancer to show his talent and expertise in partnering as he has about seven plus pas de deux within the two hours.

“But also for the orchestra, the score is completely ravishing, it’s highly romantic music, but Act Two never lets ups. I know from some of the orchestral players they found it quite a marathon and a challenge.”

But Mayerling is also quite challenging for the dancers both mentally and emotionally with much of the work both physically intricate and erotically charged, dealing with deep and dark themes, including sexual obsession, mental illness and drug addiction.

So much so, that Scottish Ballet became the first ballet company in the world to bring in an intimacy coach.

The dancers reaching for the gun prop which is aimed at the ceiling
The Scandal At Mayerling is both physically and emotionally challenging for Scottish Ballet’s dancers.

Audiences will see something visceral, challenging and engaging

Christopher said: “I brought in some coaches that work with helping the cast and dancers access really difficult, intense situations and emotions. That’s where it’s been essential to devote some time to the intimacy coaching.

“It has paid off. I think what audiences see is something so visceral now and something they know that is really challenging, really engaging, but they know in the back of their minds the dancers have been through training and it’s being accessed safely and the dancers are fully supported.”

That support extends to audiences, too, with a recommendation that it is for audiences aged 12 plus, while Scottish Ballet has been working closely with the Scottish Association For Mental Health to ensure appropriate messaging if anyone finds triggering moments in the work.

A dancer in a hot pink flowing skirt posing for the audience
Audiences have been delighted by The Scandal At Mayerling.

The Scandal At Mayerling has been winning praise from ballet fans and critics alike since its world premiere in Glasgow earlier this month, being described as one of the most dramatic performances the company has ever given as well as being “bold and brutal”.

How to get tickets for The Scandal At Mayerling at Eden Court and HMT

Christopher, who said he is delighted to see Scottish Ballet touring once again, hopes Aberdeen audiences will be just as thrilled by the work.

“Anyone who has been to see our productions before knows we are not afraid about engaging with difficult subject matter, but we do so in a way that connects with our society today. It’s not being gratuitous or for shock value,” he said.

Scottish Ballet's performers on pointe in long dresses, with one grabbing the others arm.
Dark drama and tension are at the heart of The Scandal At Mayerling.

“The ballet has a real comment on power and privilege and it’s shown through the demise of the Hapsburg Empire, with the backdrop to this demise of Crown Prince Rudolf which ultimately led to the First World War.”

For information and tickets for The Scandal At Mayerling at His Majesty’s Theatre visit aberdeenperformingarts.com


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