Snow White

Jan 22 2016 | By More

★★★★☆   Distinctive

Festival Theatre: Fri 22/Sat 23 Jan 2016
Review by Susan Lowes

There’s a macabre twist to a classic fairytale in the second of a trilogy of adaptations by balletLORENT, co-produced with Northern Stage.

Captivating, haunting and at times unsettling, balletLORENT’s Snow White isn’t quite the ballet its name suggests, but expressive, imaginative and inclusive contemporary dance. In places it lacks the beauty and grace normally expected at the ballet.

Snow White - BalletLORENT Photo Ian West

Snow White – BalletLORENT Photo Ian West

Originally published in 1812 as part of the Brothers Grimm collection of fairy tales, Snow White is a story about envy, jealousy and filicide. This version of the tale had been reworked by Carol Ann Duffy and while there is an apple, an evil queen, a dashing King and a handful of dwarfish miners, they’re not entirely what you’d expect.

Duffy has steered clear of the cartoonised version of Snow White and tried to remain as true to the original as possible. Herein possibly lies the production’s genius and perhaps its downfall.

Fairy tales of old were gruesome. They were fantastical and wondrous, but they were also horrific and fearful. They tell us that bad things happen but importantly they also teach that these things can be overcome. They teach coping mechanisms and resilience.

Over the years they’ve been watered down for fear of scaring children. In doing so, they’ve lost the magic and the ultimate redemption.

dark and macabre

This production is definitely not watered down. It’s delightfully dark and macabre. The traditional version of Snow White focuses on an evil step-mother, because the idea of a mother committing these atrocities on her own child is monstrous.

Snow White - BalletLORENT. Photo: Ian West

Snow White – BalletLORENT. Photo: Ian West

Here it is indeed Snow White’s mother, played by Caroline Reece, who sets out to kill her daughter out of vapid vanity and jealousy. Reece convincingly creates a sense of distaste on stage as she delivers a character who has very few redeeming qualities. That’s even before she plots to kill her sweet, innocent and kind daughter, played by Natalie Trewinnard.

While this darker focus in the production is refreshing and interesting, in places it goes too far. There are underlying sexual undertones that almost cross the line into necrophilia as Snow White sleeps in her death-like slumber. So too, the slaughter of the doe in place of Snow White is shockingly too graphic as it is one of the children on stage that is sacrificed.

The 12 young children in the production, however, are spellbinding. Part of balletLORENT’s ethos is to create inclusive and participatory productions that create opportunities for children and young people to engage in the theatre. Chosen through a series of creative workshops, the young cast are P1 and P2 children from Preston Street Primary School in Edinburgh.


As the story opens, they beautifully play as children in the feather-like snow. As it progresses, they take on the form of deer, rabbits and mice scurrying and padding across the stage. They are completely enchanting.

Snow White - BalletLORENT. Photo: Kit Haigh

Snow White – BalletLORENT. Photo: Kit Haigh

So too are the ensemble scenes with the miners. Their gnarled and twisted movements are both grotesque and delightful. It’s hard not to like them, complete with their deformities from the years of hard labour in the mines. Like their more traditional dwarfish counterparts, they are easy to love.

Liz Lorent’s choreography and direction tell a very particular and distinctive story. The set is detailed and inventively entwined within the story, the lighting is atmospheric and the spoken words that accompany the dancing add a touch of humour, even if the words themselves are a little superfluous.

There’s so much to celebrate in balletLORENT’s production of Snow White – it’s wonderfully dark and distinctive – but it does cross a little too much into the creepy to completely enjoy it.

Running time 1 hour 45 minutes including interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Friday 22/Saturday 23 January 2015
Friday evening at 7:30pm, Saturday matinee at 2pm.
Tickets and further details from
Festival Theatre

Snow White on tour 2016:
22/23 Jan Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
18 – 20 Feb Warwick
Arts Centre
024 7652 4524 Book online
26/27 Feb Pitlochry
Festival Theatre
01796 484 626 Book online
25/26 Mar London
Sadlers Wells
020 7863 8000 Book online
31 Mar – 2 Apr Newcastle
Northern Stage
0191 230 5151 Book online
8/9 Apr Oxford
01865 305305 Book online


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