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Liv Lorent Reflects on the Journey of Rapunzel

Thursday February 22nd 2024Share page

A few days ago was the last performance of Rapunzel that we expect to do for some time … maybe ever? It was a show whose journey started in Durham Gala in 2012 and ended in Derby 2024.

Rapunzel was our first production on Sadler’s Wells main stage in 2013, returning in 2014, touring to Edinburgh Festival Theatre, CAST, Winchester Theatre Royal, Darlington Hippodrome and His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen to name a just a few. balletLORENT was now firmly on the circuit of middle to large scale venues.

This welcome development for the company was supported by the faith and imagination of Emma Gladstone and Alistair Spalding who encouraged me to hand pick an ambitious collective of extraordinary collaborators to join our existing very special team who were already working with large scale productions.

A dream team took shape with writer Carol Ann Duffy creating a retelling of the Grimm original, Lesley Sharp narrating with music composed by Murray Gold. The set was made in the Northern Stage workshop to a design by Phil Eddols, while the dancers wore costumes by Michele Clapton and everyone and everything was lit by Malcolm Rippeth.

A studio rehearsal team worked in Newcastle with Ben Crompton as Dramaturg, Simon Birch and Geoff Hopson shared Rehearsal Directing and together with the original cast created this mighty and important show. Phillipa White was first to dye her hair red for the title role, Caroline Reece learnt how to use whips for the Witch, Debbi Purtill and Mariusz Raczynski developed a deep bond in the role of hopeful then grieving Husband and Wife.

This was John Kendal’s first appearance as King, with his beautiful Queen Gwen Berwick and both learnt to scooter on pointe. Their son, The Prince was a role created by Gavin Coward. Together with Adam Russell, the Royals also featured as the witches’ terrifying creatures.

To enforce the pain of childlessness for the Wife, Husband and Witch, we had children in the piece as well as parents with their babies and toddlers performing together onstage. Throw in ballloons, a maypole, wheels , abundant petals, an orchestral score and tremendous performances by the dancers and we had a powerful show for family audiences.

Some kind of magic in the themes of the show made some of us have babies including myself and Pip, whose Rapunzel role was then taken on by Natalie MacGillivray. With Natalie dyeing her hair bright red we toured on with this cast until 2015.

In 2022 we brought Rapunzel back and another Rapunzel was cast, Benedicta Mamunini. We made a new version of the work Rapunzel After Dark for adult audiences that was programmed as a later evening one Act piece. We loved being able to tell this story for diverse audiences.

Natalie returned to being Rapunzel in 2023 for the tour, while Benedicta had a baby. Natalie had performed the role of Queen the previous year with her young son as the baby Prince. The original Wife, Debbi Purtill taught her role to Virginia Scudeletti who had been an ensemble apprentice dancer in our 2014/15 tour. Creative Partners Debbi Purtill and Gavin Coward both who have led our education work for years, cast the children. In addition Gavin returned to performing his role of the Prince.

Long term balletLORENT dancer Toby Fitzgibbons became the Husband, and we have had several apprentices and freelancers include Rapunzel as their experience including current cast Berta Admetila and Montaine Ponceau, as well as Emma Savoldelli Harris , James Mounsey, Gabi Serani, Alicia Meehan, Gary Clarke and Aisha Naamani.

Executive Producer Christine Grimwood managed the partnerships with New Writing North, Sadlers Wells and Northern Stage and was the captain of the ship as we travelled to bigger venues on this steep learning curve. Backstage over the years Graeme Nixon, Simon Henderson, Chris Tindall and Andrea Scrimshaw, Matt Britten, Michael Morgan, Lou Duffy and Emily Crozier made the magic happen out front from behind the scenes.

Working on Rapunzel cemented a lot of long-term working relationships. We have all experienced a lot of life in these years and have collected many shared memories of children who have danced with the company, and babies who were starting their adventure onstage.

Maybe you remember being with us? Over 59 shows there were hundreds who joined the professional dancers on stage, and tens of thousands of you watched from beautiful auditoriums across the U.K. 

Thank you for joining us. Long live Rapunzel!