Currently led by artistic director Ruth Brill, London Children's Ballet is a unique organisation: founded in 1994, it’s a charity which every year gives up to 50 children aged nine to 16 the chance to work towards a West End performance.
Hopefuls audition and the successful ones are chosen on the basis of talent only, regardless of height, shape or income. They are given free training, and the whole experience culminates in a live performance on a real theatre stage.
As their brand-new iteration of Snow White amply demonstrates, all aspects of the production are up to West End standards. Richard Norris’s perfectly serviceable score is played live by an orchestra conducted by Philip Hesketh. Sarah Godwin’s costumes are rich and evocative for each scene, be it the ballroom in Snow White’s palace, the forest where snowflakes swirl….or the huntspeople’s home, where the threatened princess seeks refuge.
London Children's Ballet, Snow White ©photographybyash
The huntspeople, replacing the seven dwarves, are one of the changes that choreographer Gavin McCaig brought to the traditional fairy tale. In McCaig’s version, we first see the pregnant young Queen (13-year-old Lily Routledge, later to tackle with aplomb a more demanding role as The Dove) die in childbirth in the snow.
Nine years later we meet her daughter, Snow White (11-year-old Giulietta Aitken, delightful) playing with her friends under the watchful eye of her Nurse (14-year-old Matilda Russell, a very expressive dance actress) and her evil stepmother (scowling 14-year-old Harriet Mears).
London Children's Ballet, Harriet Mears as the Queen ©photographybyash
Spool forward seven years, and Snow White has grown into a beauty, whose 16th birthday is being celebrated with a ball at the palace. This role is interpreted with commendable artistry by 14-year-old Scarlett Monahan.
London Children's Ballet, Snow White, Scarlett Monahan as Snow White © photographybyash
The jealous Queen, aided and abetted by her pet Raven (15-year-old Fred Sweetman) orders Robert, the Queen’s Huntsman (14-year-old John Holden) to kill Snow White.
London Children's Ballet, Snow White, John Holden as Robert, Fred Sweetman as the Raven © photographybyash
Robert can’t do it; the traditional poisoned apple is called for, but that doesn't quite work either, and eventually a kiss from Robert wakes up the sleeping princess.
With the King’s blessing Robert and Snow White are married (pictured top) and presumably live happily ever after.
If not always as cogent as it could be, McCaig’s choreography is carefully calibrated to show off the dancers at their best. The older ones get demanding dances, which showcase their ability and technical development.
The younger dancers are given playful choreography, to which some of the little ones add their own endearingly goofy touches.
Gavin McCaig’s Snow White packs an awful lot of dancing into 100 minutes and its impeccable execution raises hopes for a bright future for British ballet.
Should you wish to make a special occasion of it, the 5:30 show on Saturday 15 April will be a gala performance, with all proceeds going to LCB's work with disadvantaged children.
To apply for tickets use the booking form here.
|London Children's Ballet, Snow White review
|Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HT | MAP
13 Apr 23 – 16 Apr 23, Thur at 19:00; Fri at 13:00 & 19:00; Sat at 13:30 & 17:30; Sun 12:30 & 16:30 Dur.: 120 mins inc one interval
|£18-£55 (+booking fee)
|Click here to book