Balletic version of Aussie classic charms young and old

30 September 2020

West Australian Ballet’s adaptation of The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is a winner with audiences young and not-so-young, discovers Nina Levy.

The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, West Australian Ballet ·
Perth Cultural Centre, 29 September 2020 ·

I’m always eager to see a new ballet, but as we found ourselves a spot on the steps of the Perth Cultural Centre amphitheatre to watch West Australian Ballet’s adaptation of The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, my four-year-old companion was giving me a run for my money in the excitement stakes.

She hasn’t forgotten how much she enjoyed WAB’s 2019 rendition of Peter and the Wolf. Like this year’s Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the ballet was presented at Perth’s annual AWESOME Festival as part of a three-year arrangement between WAB and AWESOME.

And neither of us were disappointed.

From the joyfully percussive overture, it was clear that this balletic version of May Gibb’s iconic tale, was going to be a winner with both young and not-so-young audience members.

Choreographed by Andries Weidemann (dance lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) to a recording of a gorgeous new orchestral score by local composer Emma Jayakumar, this 30-minute ballet bubbles along.

Also the narrator, Jayakumar reveals herself as a natural storyteller. Though the original text is both wordy and a little on the dark side, here it is edited into a simple story packed with humour and just enough danger to keep things interesting. We meet the gumnut babies, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and follow their adventures with various bush animals as they journey to try and see humans.

As in Peter and the Wolf, one of the fringe benefits of this ballet is that it gives us a chance to see some of WAB’s younger members in action. Keigo Muto is member of the corps de ballet who has caught my eye on several occasions with his wonderfully airy allegro, so it was lovely to see him in a lead role as Snugglepot, alongside young artist Sarah Ross, as Cuddlepie. Together they make an acrobatic and endearing duo.

They are ably supported by a small but versatile cast. All gave engaging performances, but young artist Brent Carson, as Mr Lizard, was a stand-out, with his open-shirted swagger (think the Rum Tum Tugger from Cats). As his nemesis, Mrs Snake, young artist Beatrice Manser gave a sharp and sinister performance.

Beatrice Manser as Mrs Snake. Photo: Bradbury Photography

Corps de ballet members Jack Whiter and Emma-Rose Barrowclough, as the Banskia Men, were unquestionably crowd favourites. Clad in gorgeously textured cones, their “wickedness” is tempered by slapstick antics that had my young friend in gleeful fits of laughter. Their outfits are just one of many eye-catching designs by Amalia Lambert; the lime-green goggled frog, and the vivid orange pleated fan of Mrs Fantail also visual highlights.

Though the score is recorded rather than played live, mention must be made, too, of Perth Symphony Orchestra’s zesty rendition of Jayakumar’s score, under the baton of Kate McNamara.

As we departed the Perth Cultural Centre, my young friend stared wistfully at the stage, hoping for an encore. We both recommend you check out this charming (and free!) season of ballet.

West Australian Ballet’s The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie plays the Perth Cultural Centre until 2 October 2020. Entry is free but you will need to register online before entering. A free post-show workshop for children takes place straight after the show.

The show is also live-streamed to the Northbridge Piazza.

Read junior critic Bethany Stopher’s review of The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

Pictured top are Keigo Muto as Snugglepot, Kassidy Thompson as Ragged Blossom and Sarah Ross as Cuddlepie. Photo: Bradbury Photography

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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