Rumpelstiltskin / BCMG, Bates Mill, Huddersfield


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.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders