The Secret Theatre

Where is the glitter and magic, our annual Christmas treat, without the Sugar Plum Fairy or the Snow Queen? With theatre doors closed during these sad times, Scottish Ballet have come up with this brilliant feature film, The Secret Theatre, based on The Nutcracker and The Snow Queen, choreographed by Christopher Hampson and Peter Darrell and designed by Lez Brotherston to the music of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. But it is not just extracts. The film-makers, Jess and Morgs (Morgan Runacre-Temple and Jessica Wright) have instead skillfully woven the dances into its own imaginative story written by Sam Brown about a small boy’s adventures discovering the wonders of theatre. For what small child has not wondered if the characters go on living in their secret world when the theatre is shut?

Scottish Ballet and their orchestra are to be congratulated.

Starting with the small boy (a charming Leo Tetteh) creeping into the empty theatre, evading the torch beam of the security guard, a terrific tension is created. At once the viewer is hooked as he climbs onto the stage and wanders back-stage. Dancers climb out of wicker baskets or through costume rails. Leo is befriended by a young woman, Lexi performed cheerily by Alice Kawalek and hey presto, the dances begin.

The film works best when everything is seen through the Leo’s wide eyes or when he is involved in the action: flexing his own muscles imitating the Strong Man, chased by a snarling silver wolf or spiky Jack Frost, terrified by the Snow Queen (the scarily magnificent Constance Devernay) or even Leo showing off his own skills spinning a football. Of course, we must have the set pieces of the Sugar Plum Fairy (the exquisite Sophie Martin) and Waltz of the Flowers but concentration might flag for the younger viewers during the overlong Roma sequence.

When Jess and Morgs are given full reign this is a superb cinematic experience, working as a dramatic whole, using all the tricks of film-makers: swirling camera, transformation of characters before our eyes into snow wolf or Jack Frost, a roving camera behind the main action, showing the lurking Snow Queen waiting to strike, or with the sparkle of a Christmas tree bauble whirling us to a party where the Nutcracker Prince leaps and spins (superbly danced by Jerome Anthony Barnes). The dancers play to the camera, thrusting a top-hat into the frame or giving a wink, (the dramatic Bruno Micchiardi as Ring-Master) for, of course, the advantage of film is that we get a close-up of the dancers’ expressions, can admire the details of the golden braids on uniforms or silver-embroidered tutus, the jewels of the tiaras, or shiver at the blue lips of the Snow Queen. Everyone has front row seats. And what better way to introduce a child to ballet? Perhaps more children, in particular boys, like the one in this film will have their imaginations fired and desire to become a ballet dancer?

To produce this film in full compliance with covid restrictions must have been a massive undertaking, let alone the dancers having to learn a new way of working for film. Scottish Ballet and their orchestra are to be congratulated. The beauty is that this film can be seen by a wider audience than those of us living in Scotland. It’s FREE but I urge you, in these difficult times for all theatre people, to consider a donation.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

Scottish Ballet

The Secret Theatre

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Antigone, Interrupted

★★★★
Festival Theatre

Scottish Ballet: The Snow Queen

★★★★
Royal Lyceum Theatre

An Edinburgh Christmas Carol

★★★★★
Festival Theatre

Rite of Spring

★★★
Dance Base

Juliet & Romeo

★★★★

Since you’re here…

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

This Christmas, Scottish Ballet will bring the magic of the theatre right into your home with our first feature film. 

In a deserted city, a young boy stumbles into a theatre. He wanders through the auditorium, where rows of velvet chairs, draping curtains and chandeliers seem to lie in lonely wait for audiences to return. The theatre may be empty, but the show will go on... 

Starring characters from our most popular festive ballets, the worlds of the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy collide when the theatre bursts into life. In this spectacular, feature-length film, you’ll be treated to an extraordinary show filled with acrobats, snowflakes, clowns, princes and – of course – beautiful ballerinas.   

The Secret Theatre features the choreography of Scottish Ballet founder Peter Darrell and CEO/Artistic Director Christopher Hampson, co-directed for the screen by Jess & Morgs. With set and costumes designed by Lez Brotherston; music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra; new additional composition by Frank Moon; and performances from the full Scottish Ballet Company; this Christmas special will be an unforgettable adventure for all the family. 

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