Peter and the Wolf

Peter and the Wolf

Prokofiev’s children’s tale, celebrating its 70th-anniversary, with an introductory act with music by Erik Van der Wurff and text by Lori Spee from an original idea by Jan Geenen

Jack / Peter – Maurizio Montis
Francis / Duck – Michael Dowling
Zoe / Bird – Elena Kyrianou
Missy / Cat – Alison Ho Chee
Lucas / Wolf – Craig Harrison
Lisa / Hunter – Bridgette Loriaux
Kenny / Hunter – Benny Maslov
Teacher / Grandfather – Miles Elkington
Ensemble / Swing – Garry William Clark

Peter Wickham (narrator)

Soloists of the Philharmonia Orchestra:
Clare Thompson & Philippe Honoré (violins)
Rachel Roberts (viola)
David Cohen (cello)
Christian Gelsetzer (double bass)
Kenneth Smith (flute)
Jill Crowther (oboe)
Barnaby Robson (clarinet)
Meyrick Alexander (bassoon)
Laurence Davies, James Rattigan & James Handy (horns)
Mark Calder (trumpet)
Christian Jones (bass trombone)
David Corkhill & Kevin Hathway (percussion)
Lindsay Bridgwater (keyboards)
Mark Stephenson

Director – Anne Geenen
Co-director – Doug Fitch
Set – Paul Gallis
Costumes – Yan Tax
Lighting – Rick Fisher
Choreographer – Doug Elkins
Sound – Paul Gavin

Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: 30 March, 2006
Venue: Hackney Empire, London

Hot tail it to Hackney Empire for something that is really quite special. ‘In the Wings’ is a Belgian/British company that specialises in dance productions with live orchestral music for a family audience. With spectacular designs, making use of Hackney Empire’s new fly-tower for a whole forest on and off the stage, and a schoolroom, nine young athletic dancers and a charismatic, avuncular narrator, “Peter and the Wolf” both amazes and delights.

Like anyone who knows Prokofiev’s delightful musical tale for children, I wondered how on earth it could make a full evening’s entertainment. The creative team has created a completely natural introduction in which eight kids are in class with their teacher just before a holiday. Introduced to each character by the narrator the schoolroom is quickly established with desks on wheels, which leads to a Stomp-like percussion section using the wood of the desks, a lot of clapping and a vivid choreographic imagination. The class eventually settles and teacher asks for each child to imagine a perfect holiday.

This allows extended dance solos – all to music composed in easy-on-the-ear style by Erik Van der Wurff in complete harmony with Prokofiev’s classic score yet-to-come – but day-dream Jack, who isn’t listening to his classmates at all, is – rather – musing on what sort of animals his friends would be. Flighty Zoe would be a bird, slinky Missy a cat, stumbling Francis a duck and bully Lucas a wolf. Awoken from such dreams by the teacher, the interval occurs, then Jack is told that his ideal holiday will be next. Voila! “Peter and the Wolf”.

With characterful musical performances from principals of the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Mark Stephenson, “Peter and the Wolf” unfolds in a series of wonderful dance vignettes and memorable scenes. Michael Downing’s waddling duck is particularly endearing, while Craig Harrison’s bandanna-wearing wolf leaps up the tree and body-pops his way around the stage, while Elena Kyrpianou’s bird, Alison Ho Chee’s cat and Maurizio Montis’s Peter all hide in the branches out of reach. The teacher – Miles Elkington – is drafted in as grandfather, perhaps not the gruffest of worry-mongers, while two of the kids who did not get their solo dances in the first half, Bridgette Loriaux and Benny Maslov, become the camouflage-wearing hunters.

The dance movement is inventive and captivating, the characters believable, the settings better than most West End productions and the musical performances witty and warm. The young dancers, engaging and charismatic, were complemented by Peter Wickham’s narration (perfectly judged, gently amplified but conversational) who spends the latter half of “Peter and the Wolf” in safety behind grandfather’s fence!

This perfectly judged production gives an enormous of pleasure.

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