Rumpelstiltskin at Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage
Liv Lorent and Carol Ann Duffy’s adaption of Rumpelstilskin combines contemporary dance, poetic narration and impressive Romani music against a rustic backdrop to create a fun – if slightly eyebrow-raising – retelling of this classic fairy tale.
The King (John Kendall) and Queen (Maria Vincentelli) of a medieval rural community are happy and in love. After watching a parade of cute village kids dance with the sheep, the Queen decides that she would like a child of her own. Unfortunately, she dies in childbirth, leaving the king devastated.
Angry at his son for surviving when his wife did not, the King doesn’t even give him a real name – which is how the young prince comes to be known as “Rumpelstilskin” (played by Gavin Coward). One day, the King locks Rumpelstilskin out of the palace walls to spend his days grieving and counting gold. The abandoned prince grows up with the sheep and is generally avoided by the villagers, but he does develop a special talent: he can weave straw into gold.
Costume designer Michele Clapton uses rustic brown and gold colours to skillfully create clothes that look medieval and rural. Gold is obviously important to this story and it is used cleverly with the ghostly Queen’s veil – because he has buried his love for his dead wife with his love of gold. The set design is fairly elaborate and includes nice touches like a moving mini castle, a lamp-style moon and a straw slide. Slightly creepy-looking sheep mill the stage and the lighting successfully recreates night and day.
The dancers are shoeless and use a mix of contemporary movements, lifts and acrobatics (including an impressive yoga-style handstand) alongside mime and emotive facial expressions to tell a visual story which is easy to follow. The narrator keeps us up to date with the tale in a beautiful voice. The folk music is strong, engaging and conveys the tone of the scene well.
Gavin Coward does well as the slightly creepy Rumpelstilskin, who just wants to be loved – although it comes off in a creepy way when he tries to play with village children. The story itself is a bit bizarre and would probably create a lot of family drama and potential couples counselling later on, but it’s an interesting interpratation of Rumpelstilskin and his reasons for wanting this living child above all the gold in the world. There are some sections which might be a little uncomfortable if you’re watching it with your kids, but overall this is a fun and engaging show which will lift your spirits during quarantine.
Photo: Bill Cooper
Rumpelstiltskin is at Sadler’s Wells from 3rd April until 9th April 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.