If there are tickets available for the tour of The Light Princess you really need to grab them now.
This is a glorious evening of dance from the multi-award winning company but made very special by the live playing of Catrin Finch’s exquisite score, with this pretty special musician conducting.
From the mesmerising Oriental-themed music accompanying the floating lantern video that opens the show, through rousing ensemble music to heart-wrenching lyrical writing for blissfully gorgeous love duets, this is a score that marks Catrin as a natural composer for dance.
The story of The Light Princess is a combination of charming and witty with dark and sinister and while the story has a happy ending in my twisted little brain I quite liked the penultimate scene when the love-struck prince made the ultimate sacrifice to save the planet – oops, his Light Princess.
Indeed, you could read the story with a green filter, a cursed world, the natural order turned upside down, the plane’s resources ebbing away leaving us stranded and only personal sacrifice restoring Mother Earth. Or you could just watch a ballet about a baby cursed to be immune from gravity and only true love bringing her back to earth. Think Sleeping Beauty meets Swan Lake with a touch of Roald Dahlesque twists and naughtiness.
Based on the story by George MacDonald – look it up as it only takes about 15 mins to read – Ballet Cymru has joined forces with James Roberts and Fran Widdowson from regular partners Citrus Arts to create a new dance with the company’s signature combinations of classical dance and innovative movement, rich characterisation, plenty of humour and clear storytelling.
Add to this magical lighting designs from Chris Illingsworth, costume, elegant set and video designs by the work’s choreographers Darius James and Amy Doughty, and that Catrin Finch score for a show that has instant appeal. In this work Catrin collaborates with composer and music producer Lee House with some scintillating results.
Anna Pujol is our Light Princess and Andreamaria Battaggia her hero. Anna’s dancing captures the childlike, almost slightly insane, qualities of the princess who is freed from gravity but seems equally freed from understanding convention, emotion and empathy. The more conventional ballet hero portrayed elegantly and crisply by Andreamaria quite literally brings her down to earth and their duets when they discover one another, fall in love, face sacrifice and redemption through death, all performed to the most glorious music, are intoxicating.
The use of a suspended hoop for the Light Princess’s aerial attributes is skilful and aesthetically a delight without dominating, subtle rather than overpowering.
The story has a good array of characters for the choreographers to develop dance styles for such as the witches, nice and dark and lithe from Miguel Fernandes, Natalie Debono and Miles Carrott; two Oriental philosophers (one physical one spiritual), given quirky gestures and poses, danced by Gwenllian Davies and Krystal Lowe, a nurse and head servant dance by Ann Wall and Daniel Morrison with other courtiers, judges and boatmen taken by the company members.
James and Doughton’s characterisation of the King, danced strongly as always by Robbie Moorcroft, and The Queen, danced with style and refinement by Beth Medway, are harder to pin down. They display emotions from anger and distress to perhaps arrogance and lacking in compassion but then I may be reading too much into their roles and the darker themes of the work.
And all of this in a show that lasts just one hour and 25 minutes!
My only slight reservation would be the amount of text explaining the narrative at the beginning of scenes which may be important for younger audience members or people who have not quickly read the synopsis in the programme. I would perhaps simply have it at the start of each act and leave it at that.
The music is being recorded to accompany the dance when the show hits the touring road and there was much after show chat about whether it will be made available by Catrin, such was its effect on the audience. I am told the other unnamed musicians are Lucy Morgan’s ensemble.
I cannot think of another company in Wales that uses its resources to create work of such a high aesthetic standard in music, dance, video, lighting, costumes and sets design.
Presented by Ballet Cymru, Catrin Finch and The Riverfront Theatre.
Darius talks about The Light Princess: