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Scottish Ballet boss Christopher Hampson gets a warm glow when asked to stage extra show in Inverness as new ballet's young lover Kai gets cold comfort from Snow Queen


By Margaret Chrystall

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INVERNESS has delivered historic moments to Scottish Ballet at both ends of its special 50th anniversary year.

It was here that the company held its party to launch a year of special events with the double bill Spring! at Eden Court.

Constance Devernay as the Snow Queen and Andrew Peasgood as Kai. Picture: Andy Ross
Constance Devernay as the Snow Queen and Andrew Peasgood as Kai. Picture: Andy Ross

And just a couple of weeks ago, it was where the announcement was made that Scottish Ballet would – for the first time in its history – add an extra performance to a run due to popular demand.

It was for The Snow Queen, the new ballet from Christopher Hampson, artistic director and CEO of the company. It will be seen here next week when the company brings the new production to Inverness.

Designer Lez Brotherston and Scottish Ballet director Christopher Hampson. Picture: Tony Currie
Designer Lez Brotherston and Scottish Ballet director Christopher Hampson. Picture: Tony Currie

Speaking to Christopher this week about the success of The Snow Queen, he is clearly delighted that they will present an extra performance here.

“It has been received so well, so well in fact that we have had to put on this extra performance in Inverness.

“We think it’s the first time in our history that we’ve had a list of people waiting for a ticket and that is wonderful! It shows the support is there in Inverness and the Highlands – and islands, because we know many people travel from the islands too.”

Alice Kawalek (centre left) as a ballerina and Evan Loudon as the strong man. Picture: Andy Ross
Alice Kawalek (centre left) as a ballerina and Evan Loudon as the strong man. Picture: Andy Ross

Over Christmas, The Snow Queen also reached a much wider audience when it was shown on BBC Scotland, then a few days later on BBC4.

“I think what is interesting in this day and age is that people often say if something goes on TV or is shown in the cinema, fewer people are going to go and see it.

“Our experience is that more people come because they genuinely want to see us dance it live.

“The screenings over Christmas certainly haven’t stopped sales in Inverness!”

Back at the start of the new ballet plans, Christopher knew he wanted one important thing at the heart of Scottish Ballet’s version of the Hans Christian Anderson story.

“I wanted to make sure the Snow Queen herself had a compelling story because in the original Hans Christian Anderson version she is just this mean female character and we don’t know why she is that way.

“In our Snow Queen, she herself has a story to resolve.”

He added: “The initial concept discussions took place about two years ago with the designer Lez Brotherston. We spoke about the story we wanted to tell, decided on a time and place and how the ballet would start to look. Then Les produced designs for sets and costumes – and it took off from there.”

Kayla-Maree Tarantolo as the Snow Queen's sister Lexi and Constance Devernay as the Snow Queen. Picture: Andy Ross
Kayla-Maree Tarantolo as the Snow Queen's sister Lexi and Constance Devernay as the Snow Queen. Picture: Andy Ross

In Scottish Ballet’s version, a pair of young lovers – Gerda and Kai – have just become engaged and are enjoying themselves at a circus where there is a strong man, a ballerina, two clowns and a ringmaster.

“The circus charactersunderline the story – such as the two clowns re-enacting Kai and Gerda’s engagement,” laughed Christopher.

The Snow Queen then steals Kai away from an increasingly worried Gerda. The only person Gerda can turn to for help is a female pickpocket ... who just happens to be the Snow Queen’s sister, Lexy.

Christopher confesses that he became a bit besotted with the character of Lexy.

He laughed: “I really enjoyed creating that character, so much so that Les had to remind me that the ballet was called The Snow Queen, not Lexy!”

Ask Christopher about the company’s 50th year looking back and there seem to be so many positives.

“Our 50th anniversary kicked off at Eden Court in March last year and now we round off the year there too. Being asked to do an extra performance was such a welcome back.

“Those of us who orchestrated the 50th events – such as Five Wishes going into the community – had no idea of the energising impact they would have on the whole organisation.

“Also in Inverness we launched 5 In 5, our plan to create five new ballets in five years. The first was The Crucible, the second is The Snow Queen – and we have now got a third, fourth and a fifth.”

Taking Scottish Ballet out to have an effect on wider society was always an important goal.

Constance Devernay and Andrew Peasgood as Kai in The Snow Queen. Picture: Andy Ross
Constance Devernay and Andrew Peasgood as Kai in The Snow Queen. Picture: Andy Ross

“Our mission is to inspire on stage and beyond – and beyond it is probably the most important part. We know we can inspire onstage, we are all involved with this wonderful artform, dance, which can touch so many parts of society as a non-verbal communicator. But we really know the value of the change it can make in society and beyond the stage within communities – local and across Scotland.

“In many of those initiatives I often work with our director of engagement.And unless we can measure the impact beyond the stage, then we just don’t do it. It absolutely must have a legacy beyond the stage. That was part of the idea of the Five Wishes campaign, as a way of saying to Scotland ‘What more can we do? How else can we thank you for your support?’ So, 2019was a really incredible once-in-a-lifetime year. That energy from our 50th is really going to propel us forward into the next decade. It’s a very exciting time.”

The Snow Queen is at Eden Court from Wednesday to Saturday, January 29 to February 1.


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