The most popular versions of the Grimm Brothers’ fairytale Rapunzel focus purely on the eponymous damsel herself. Ripped from her family home as an infant by a witch and locked in a lonely tower, Rapunzel’s plight is a tale which has captured imaginations for centuries.
But what of her parents, who longed for a child for years, only to have their newborn taken away? What of their tale of sorrow and loss?
In balletLORENT’s production of Rapunzel, visiting Aberdeen’s HM Theatre tomorrow night, the story of the golden-haired beauty’s parents has been reinstated. As we follow Rapunzel on her adventures through the interweaving of dance, music and narration, we are able to follow what happened to those left behind.
For artistic director Liv Lorent, the process of bringing the parents back into the story has drawn out underlying themes which might have been ignored in other versions.
“What we found interesting was that the storyline of the husband and wife longing for a child is just the same as the witch who also longs for her own child,” Liv said.
“And that’s a very grown-up interpretation of the story.”
The addition of young performers to the cast has also tied well into the themes of innocence and loss. At each date on the production’s UK tour, local young dancers have been auditioned to appear on stage alongside the professional company. Their presence in the performances, Liv believes, gives the story “an incredible power”.
“Nothing is more painful when you want a child than walking past a playground or beach and seeing children playing,” she said.
“My feeling was so strong about this that I had to have the beauty of having real children on stage.”
These plot threads, while considerably more adult-orientated than many iterations of the tale, didn’t worry Liv when considering if it would alienate children.
In fact, the production, which has been created in collaboration with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Doctor Who composer Murray Gold and Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton, has been designed specifically to appeal to children and adults.
On the one side, you have the exploration of mature themes while, on the other, you have awe-inspiring dance, playful characters, acrobatics and beautiful set-pieces.
“And that’s what Carol Ann’s story has meant – that adults can watch it in one way and be moved by it, while children can watch it on a different plane,” said Liv.
“I think the story is passionate and scary in the right way for children and adults. And that’s really what we wanted to do. It means a lot to me that many adults have been moved by this because of their own life stories, and children have been captivated by it in their own way.”
Sisters from an Aberdeen school have put sibling rivalry to one side while they both take to the stage in balletLORENT’s lavish production.
Annie Mackley, 15, and sister Rosie, 13, of Kingswells, will join 10 other youngsters when they perform in the ballet version of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale.
The girls, who are both pupils at St Margaret’s School for Girls in Aberdeen, first began dancing around the age of five, and have been training in ballet at the Academy Street Dance Studio for many years.
The rigorous selection process for the ballet included a six-hour audition, which was attended by 60 invited youngsters aged from six to 16. Just 12 were chosen, five of whom attend the Academy Street Dance Studio.
The following day, they had a further six hours of rehearsals with some of the professional dancers, which left them aware of muscles in places they had not thought about before.
Mum Clare said: “It was amazing that both Annie and Rosie were selected and they, and I, were very relieved it ended up that way. It would have been awful if one had got in and the other had not. Waiting to hear by phone on the evening after the audition was rather tense.
“They are so excited – each of them desperately wanted the other to get in, too, and we are absolutely delighted for them. The Easter holidays will be very busy as the girls have intensive training and rehearsals for six hours a day in the four days leading up to the performance.”
Jemma McRae, owner of the Academy Street Dance Studio and the girls’ dance teacher, said: “Over the years, Annie and Rosie have worked extremely hard, utilising their natural ability and achieving a very high standard in classical ballet.
“I am absolutely delighted that they have been selected to perform in balletLORENT’s production of Rapunzel and I am very much looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity for them to perform at HMT and with a professional company.”
Commenting on the Aberdeen performance, Liv Lorent said she was delighted with the strength of dancing talent in the area.
She said: “It’s clearly rewarding for young people to dance with the professionals, but I’m not doing this as a charitable thing. The artistry they bring is something I couldn’t emulate through grownups. And I love having the age spectrum on the stage.”