The Secret Theatre

Dec 19 2020 | By More

★★★★☆   Christmas treat

Scottish Ballet online: Mon 21 – Thurs 24 Dec 2020
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Secret Theatre may not entirely make up for missing a Christmas trip to the ballet but succeeds impressively on its own terms.

Featuring generous helpings of Peter Darrell’s choreography for The Nutcracker and Christopher Hampson’s The Snow Queen, this is a box of Christmas delights.

Leo Tetteh as the Young Boy, on set of The Secret Theatre. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Conceived as a feature film, the result is not a version of a stage show but is very much a dance film. Both the dancing and the camerawork are of an impeccable standard.

The framing device of a young boy (played with suitable wonder by Leo Tetteh) coming across an apparently deserted theatre that is suddenly filled with life, is well handled. Truthfully, however, there is not a great deal of story to follow here, with the narrative being little more than a framework to hang the dances on.

dizzying rotation

These dances are marvellous, and extremely well shot by directors Jess and Morgs (Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple). Judicious use of close-ups, pans and dizzying rotation means that the audience feels thoroughly involved in the performance. There is the odd example of trickery, but – like the sound effects which help move the story along in the fitting absence of dialogue – this is always used in the service of the dancing.

Soloist Grace Horler as Mazelda, on set of The Secret Theatre. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

At times the dancing is breathtakingly athletic. At others – such as the closing pas de deux between Sophie Martin’s Sugar Plum Fairy and the outstanding Jerome Anthony Barnes as the Nutcracker Prince – it seems graceful and otherworldly.

Compelling turns abound, with Bruno Micchiardi’s Ringmaster and Thomas Edwards’s sailor particularly impressing. Alice Kawalek, as the friendly figure who leads the boy through events, has a twinkly charm, and Constance Devernay’s Snow Queen is suitably chilly, although disappointingly underused.

Principal Constance Devernay as The Snow Queen, on set. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Lez Brotherston’s set and costume designs work at least as well on screen as they do on stage, and add to what is already a remarkable spectacle.

The only real disappointment here is that the framing device never really convinces. The first scene sets it up beautifully, but, the ending comes across as rather trite. In between, despite the efforts of Kawalek and the excellent Tetteh, it often seems like more of an afterthought.

However, this does not detract from what is an attractive Christmas treat, which is thoroughly recommended both to ballet devotees and to a general audience.

Running time: 1 hour.

Online: Mon 21 Dec: 6pm – Thurs 24 Dec: 11.59pm.
(Last booking: Thurs 24: 5pm.)
Tickets and details: Book here.

Soloist Jerome Anthony Barnes and Principal Sophie Martin on set of The Secret Theatre. Pic: Andy Ross


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Comments (1)

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  1. Melvyn Cornish says:

    I’m not a ballet fan. This was wonderful, brilliant, stunningly good. Have watched twice and will watch again tomorrow . Please don’t take it down from the web. Leave it up and people will pay to see it.