Rumpelstiltskin / BCMG, Bates Mill, Huddersfield

4.00

A magical spin on a Grimm tale

Much more than just music describing a story, and a far cry from Disney's Fantasia, David Sawer's enthralling new music-mime piece, Rumpelstiltskin, is a cross between a short narrative ballet and a silent movie with a striking live soundtrack. In choosing to illustrate this particular Grimm Brothers' fable, in which a miller's idle boast that his daughter can spin straw into gold sets in motion a thread of catastrophic consequences, Sawer has himself struck gold.

In Rumpelstiltskin, presented as part of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the musical tapestry of evocative and often tongue-in-cheek sounds conjures vivid stage pictures even without the deft gestures of the six dancers. Fortunately, since there are no words threading the pieces of the tale together, these performers can act as well as they can move. Best of all is Lucy Burge's bizarre, Rasputin-like Rumpelstiltskin who, chuntering dementedly to herself, repeatedly saves the miller's daughter but is in the end cheated of her promised reward of the girl's first child. Bryony Perkins blossoms from exploited girl to feisty Queen, her initial desperation turning to sneering triumph as she defeats Rumpelstiltskin. The dancers' expressive body language, as they flip from scene to scene inside and around Stewart Laing's versatile wooden cube set, makes the need for any spoken narrative redundant.

Though Sawer conceived Rumpelstiltskin as a piece for the concert hall – with the costumed instrumentalists set alongside the dancer-actors, and often criss-crossing the performance space – it would be easier to focus on his colourful and well-crafted score without the distraction of seeing the players. Watch the conductor Martyn Brabbins weave magical sounds from the 13-strong Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and you risk missing some vital dramatic nuance in Richard Jones's minutely-detailed direction and picturesque characterisation. Sawer's score is sombrely dark in the dungeon scene, jubilant in its evocation of wedding bells and elegantly lyrical in its depiction of its 20th-century, Mid-European setting. There may be too many puzzles woven into its texture to take in at first hearing, but the music is immediate in impact, apparently meticulously prepared and perceptively performed.

Flute, oboe and clarinet tangle acerbically together, while violin, viola and cello give emotional depth. Bass clarinet, horn and trumpet contribute a mellow richness and bassoon, tuba and double bass add fearful grimaces. The harp glitters on the fringes of these distinctive groups.

The King's gold slippers and Rumpelstiltskin's coin, nugget and, finally, ingots of gold, gleam among the dowdy costumes of muted colours. It was impossible not to feel the pain and humiliation in Rumpelstiltskin's final reel, as Burge flailed, in tandem with an increasingly unhinged mental state. The ghastly denouement was entirely in-keeping with the Grimm Brothers' reputation for the gory and the grotesque.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?