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Ballet brings magical tale of Hansel and Gretel to life

By Scott Begbie, 10 Jan 2014 8.00am

FOR dancer Sophie Martin Scottish Ballet’s Hansel and Gretel is a case of the good, the bad and the beautiful.

She plays both good Gretel and the wicked witch during the tour of what Sophie describes as a beautiful Christmas ballet.

And she’s sure Aberdeen audiences will love this reworking of the classic fairytale when it arrives at His Majesty’s next week as part of its world premiere tour.

“The story is well told and we have a bit of everything,” said Sophie.

“The first half is quite magical, then in the second half you go into the house of sweets and the world of the witch, so it is a good contrast.”

Along the way Hansel and Gretel meet a host of characters and creatures in the woods.

“It is perfect for kids and a good show for adults as well. It’s fun, there are laughs as well and the set design is amazing,” said Sophie.

Sophie plays Gretel in some performances and the Witch in others ... which means sometimes having to keep her wits about her.

“Sometimes you have to look at your costume and think ‘no, no, no ... I’m the Witch’,” she said.

“I could play both roles in the same day and there have been moments when I hear the music and I start to come up with something Gretel does, but I’m the Witch.”

The burning question is whether she prefers being a goodie or a baddie?

“I was first cast as Gretel which makes more sense for me as I have more experience in those types of characters, the younger girls who are more innocent,” said Sophie.

“This comes more naturally to me, so I prefer to be Gretel right now because I’m more comfortable in that role.

“But I was really happy to be cast as the witch because it is a big challenge.

“I have never done such a charismatic role ... it really is the opposite of Gretel.

“The acting is less subtle and you have to exaggerate everything.

“It is good to have new things and to be able to do two very different roles is good for the mind as well, it keeps you active, not just physically, but mentally.

“That’s what’s great about being a ballet dancer, especially with Scottish Ballet, where you do a huge range of things. I really enjoy it.”

Hansel and Gretel is Scottish Ballet’s first Christmas ballet in six years and is the first piece choreographed for the company by artistic director Christopher Hampson.

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ famous tale, and with Engelbert Humperdinck’s famous score, it tells of children mysteriously vanishing after a new teacher arrives at the local school. Sophie is delighted that during the tour talented young local dancers join the professionals on stage.

“It’s lovely to have the kids on stage and they all aspire to be dancers, so this gives me a real flavour of what it is like to do a show,” she said.

“That includes the rehearsal process, being in a theatre before the show, how to work with an orchestra – even that something might go wrong in and what do you do.”

And the dancer is looking forward to a return to Aberdeen.

Sophie said: “It is a very warm audience all the time in Aberdeen – and my boyfriend’s nieces, who are seven and 10, are there as well, so I have my own small audience who come along to see me.”

And you can join them when Hansel and Gretel takes to the stage of His Majesty’s next Wednesday to Saturday.