Review: Holly Noble Dance’s Snow is innovative, inclusive and magical!

Holly Noble Dance’s Snow Photo by Nick Rutter

The magic of Snow begins as soon as the audience start to queue for their seats, just outside of the auditorium. As if by magic, the cast dressed in the attire of their characters suddenly appear from nowhere – just like they do in traditional fairy tales. However, these characters seem slightly different from their conventional counterparts! They begin to interact with audience members; both adults and children, asking them questions as: “What’s your name?”, “How old are you?” and “Are you going to come on the stage at the end and dance?”

Even when the audience have entered the stage and are seated, the characters are seen moving between the stage and where the audience are sat. For instance, whilst on stage they can be seen having fun and displaying their ballet, circus, acrobatic, mime and physical theatre based skills through fun and humour. And, when the characters move away from the stage into the auditorium, once again they begin to engage with audience members asking them more questions. Even I was asked a question by Leo the Lion Tamer / Huntsman, (played by Matt Petty): “Have we met?” to which I replied “Perhaps in a previous life”. The characters return to the stage and when a performer is seen jumping through a hoop, a child from the audience instantly shouts out: “That is so amazing!”

What a brilliant way to begin a piece of performative work that immediately entices the spectator by breaking the conventional boundaries between performers only moving within the confinements of the stage space while the audience remain seated in the auditorium. Furthermore, it is this entire notion of breaking “fixity” — the state of being inflexible, permanent and non-negotiable that is one of the primary concerns of Snow.

Holly Noble Dance’s Snow Photo by Nick Rutter
Holly Noble Dance’s Snow. Photo by Nick Rutter

Set “underneath the canopy of a big-top tent” (programme notes), seven performers help to retell the nineteenth-century Brothers Grimm narrative of Snow White but with a series of contemporary twists! Without going into the plot in too much detail (as I wouldn’t want to give too much away), the leading character Snow (played by Ebony Jayne Kitts) works in a circus. Her parents used to own this circus, but unfortunately they were killed in an accident. Soon, Queen Nyx (played by Natasha Trigg) takes over the travelling circus and increasingly becomes envious of Snow’s inner beauty. Snow is distraught by the Queen’s behaviour towards her and ends up in the woods…

The language of classical texts as traditional tales and movement systems as classical ballet are constantly challenged throughout this piece of work. For instance, there is no wicked step-mother, instead Queen Nyx is portrayed as a woman that is obsessed with her own vanity as she is seen on numerous occasions looking into the mirror and asking whether she is the fairest of all – a metaphor for today’s world of mobile phones and how they are used for social media in order to dip into the so called perfect lives of celebrities! Or, is the use of a mirror in Snow simply a symbol of our preoccupation with the culture of selfies?

What does come across very clear in this adaptation is the Artistic Director Holly Noble’s representation of women. Both Snow and Queen Nyx are portrayed in this two Act performance as strong and powerful women in comparison to how they are a displayed in traditional narratives; evil, victims and obedient. Whilst Queen Nyx is preoccupied by outer beauty, Snow and her friends are more interested in inner beauty. This can be seen through Snow’s physical gestures, movements and emotions as she convincingly expresses her inner pain as caused by characters as Queen Nyx.

Holly Noble Dance’s Snow Photo by Nick Rutter
Holly Noble Dance’s Snow. Photo by Nick Rutter

But the most impressive, inspirational and forward-thinking notion as communicated by the company’s director is idea of accessibility. For example, the narrator (played by Jemima Hoadley) not only speaks but also makes use of sign language. Further, in the background a large screen displays the actual text of what is being spoken by the narrator. There are also moments when other characters also make use of sign language. But, what is different about Noble’s construction is that there is no person stood on the side of the stage interpreting the performance through sign language. Instead, sign language is brought “inside” the realms of the performance. Further still, the multitude of vernaculars that are used such as contemporary ballet, circus skills, narration, acrobatics, physical theatre, mime, contemporary and classical music, film and sign language all amalgamate into one fluid grammatical system—the language of Snow!

This is most definitely a cutting-edge piece of theatre as Noble moves into the realms of evolving the language and systems of ballet by combating stereotypes with quite simply a fresh focus on inclusion and diversity.

Reviewed on 21st of December at Déda

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