AWESOME Review: West Australian Ballet, Peter and the Wolf ⋅
Perth Cultural Centre, October 5 ⋅
Review by Amy Wiseman ⋅
It is always a thrill to see a buzzing young crowd gather for an outdoor performance, particularly the morning after one of Perth’s vicious spring storms almost blew the temporary stage over.
Thankfully the weather cleared for the opening of West Australian Ballet’s Peter and the Wolf, a short symphonic story ballet presented to the next generation of ballet fans through a collaboration with AWESOME Arts Festival. This work serves the dual purpose of introducing children to the instruments of the orchestra as well as telling a cautionary fairy tale of bravery and vigilance.
Opening the performance is a short divertissement that displays the dancers’ technical skill and reinforces to the young audience that although we’re about to enter a fairy tale world, the dancers themselves are not to be feared. The cast, a selection of WAB’s corps de ballet and young artists, perform Andries Weidemann’s neat, complex choreography with aplomb.
The story itself unfolds – quite literally – in the form of a pop-up story book, in which characters are introduced in turn and adorn themselves with an additional costume piece, accompanied by a particular orchestral instrument. Design graduate Maeli Cherel’s clever sets and costumes are intricate yet functionally designed, with the potential for future touring.
Michael Brett’s arrangement of Prokofiev’s original score for Perth Symphony Orchestra is superb, but the highlight of this iteration is Julia Moody’s narration, her mellow, gravelly tones exuding warmth and character in spades.
Though each character danced beautifully it was corps de ballet member Mayume Noguromi who shone as the Bird, with twinkling footwork and ethereal lightness.
The young cast felt a little too reserved for this style of performance, where exaggerated mime and facial expression are a must to establish the story. Weidemann’s musicality and penchant for comedy, however, proved entertaining in the main.
An engaging performance aside, the wonderful thing about this collaboration is the opportunity for West Australian artistic development – the young performance team and all areas of the production behind-the-scenes. And the other outcome? Inspiring a love of the arts in the next generation.
Pictured top: Sara Ouwendyk as Grandma with Emma-Rose Barrowclough as Peter with Mayume Noguromi as the Bird watching on. Photo: Scott Dennis.
Junior review by Bethany Stopher (13)
Peter and the Wolf, performed by West Australian Ballet, is a free event as part of the AWESOME Festival. Not only does this event add culture to the city, it also is an amazing experience for all ages. Peter and the Wolf is cleverly designed to be suitable for young children. Full length, traditional ballets are sometimes hard for young ones to focus on and they can get fidgety and bored. Peter and the Wolf has aspects that mean even a toddler can keep up with the story line.
Firstly, the characters are beautifully depicted. As Peter, Sara Ouwendyk is courageous and valiant, skipping and jumping merrily around the stage. Mayume Noguromi, as the Bird, is adorned in a pretty, feathered plume and tutu, and flitters about, full of personality. I especially admired her, as out of the dancers her spirit, expression and technique was most commendable.
Dancing the role of the Cat, Kirsty Clarke is also amazing, practically screaming the smugness of the animal she’s portraying. Playing Peter’s grandma, Asja Petrovski appears very little, and although she acted well she wasn’t given much choreography. I have seen Asja perform as Clara before, so I think her talent is wasted just hobbling around.
Emma-Rose Barrowclough is excellent as the Duck, making the children shriek with laughter as she paddled around on a little blue mat. Kassidy Thompson and Sarah Ross appear only briefly as the Hunters, but play their parts well, very brisk and foreboding.
Finally, Nathan Claridge, as the Wolf, is a truly sinister character, with a million-dollar snarl that could rival an actual wolf. His jumps are amazing. At the performance I saw the little boy in front of me screamed “Wolf!” to warn the characters every time he got too close. The Wolf was my little brother’s favourite character, even though he hid in my dad’s shoulder.
Providing a voice-over of the story helps engage the audience, especially younger viewers. Although the portable stage is small, the company makes the most of it, adding a raised top level to resemble a tree. The scenery is well-used and effective, though simple. When the unfortunate incident occurred between Wolf and Duck feathers blew across the stage, which made us chuckle, although we were sorry for the duck!
Another interesting element is that the different characters in the story are represented by different musical instruments, as is usually the case for this story. For example, the flute for the bird, the oboe for the duck. The narrator explains this to the audience when the characters are introduced.
The choreography is fun and playful, the dancers frequently turning cartwheels. The choreography showcases the different characters.
Throughout the show there is audience interaction. When the audience cries out to the performers, the dancers acknowledge them by gesture. At the show I saw I think this made the younger children feel as if they were part of the story. Sometimes the performers prompted the audience to clap, when someone was executing a challenging sequence. At the end of the show all the littlies were called up to the front of the stage, where they were given a mini dance class. I feel like this really added to the experience.
Peter and the Wolf is a touching, enjoyable piece that considers the needs of younger viewers. This free event is a great opportunity to open up the world of ballet to a new audience, but experienced viewers will also appreciate this wonderful performance. If you have spare time on your hands definitely head to the Perth Cultural Centre, where the AWESOME Festival is being held. I absolutely recommend Peter and the Wolf to everybody!