Since 1986 this small company has been delighting audiences nationwide with its unpretentious but beautifully danced performances. The Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe has been on their tour for some years now and I have just been to see them for the fourth year running. Previous shows I’ve seen are “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Lady of the Lake” and “Beauty and the Beast”. The sets are always very simple which is good I think, as the audience is not distracted from the dance by a lot of wobbly scene boards or drops. There are just eleven dancers, six women and five men, so no mass of “corps de ballet” dancers all looking identical; also the theatre is quite small, so the audience can feel almost part of the show.
Anyway, tonight’s show was “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs” which seemed a bit odd when I saw it in the programme. Quirkier still was the statement that the ballet was based on Roald Dahl’s rhymes. If you are not familiar with Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, they are nursery tales you thought you knew inside out and back to front but given a twist for the hilarious better. The traditional Red Riding Hood is a little bit dreamy as she wanders through the woods losing track of time, and completely delusional as she mistakes the big, bad wolf for her dear old grandmother. Roald Dahl’s heroine, however, is a feisty feminist who packs a pistol in her underwear and is not afraid to use it. Wolfy may have fooled Grandma but he ends up as a beautiful wolfskin coat for young Ms Hood.
The Three Little Pigs build their houses from straw, twigs and bricks as you would expect, and Mr. Wolf has some success blowing down two of them. However, he resorts to dynamite to destroy the third house, not realising that clever piggy number three has made a surreptitious phone call to a certain Ms Hood who duly turns up and dispatches Mr. Big Bad in the same manner as his Grandma-bothering kinswolf. Unfortunately for Piggy, Ms Hood is not quite satisfied with her two lovely fur coats and develops an overwhelming desire for a pigskin travelling bag too!
With the occasional foray into flamenco, paso doblé and jazz dance, and a brilliant soundtrack by Paul Patterson, this was ballet at its engaging and enjoyable best. The mostly very young audience was captivated and entertained from beginning to end and showed it with an extended and raucous applause. I’m pretty sure the dancers had a ball too.
Roll on next year’s visit by Ballet Cymru.
Illustrations are by Quentin Blake from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes “Little Red Riding Hood”.