Review by Sandra Harman
Originally composed in 1936 by Sergei Prokofiev as an introduction to the orchestra for children, Peter and the Wolf is a wonderful story using different instruments to represent the distinct voices of each character - Peter is represented by the string family, the Bluebird by the trills of the flute, the Wolf by the French horns, the cheeky Duck by the Oboes rich timbre, the Cat by the Clarinet, and Grandfather by the low notes of the Bassoon.
Choreographer Greg Horsman wanted to expand on the original symphonic fairytale from its original 25 minutes to include a prelude which provides much more substance for the characters of Peter and his Grandfather. As he needed more music to do this, Horsman used 7 pieces from Prokofiev’s “Music for Children Opus. 65” – a suite of 12 short pieces for piano. He has also given this much-loved story a contemporary twist and re-arranged the score to enable it to be played by eight musicians who perform live on stage with the dancers.
This beautifully re-imagined ballet begins a day before the original when Grandfather, Peter and the rest of their Scout troupe visit the Zoo. We see the Zookeepers (represented here by the Timpani) going about the morning tasks of preparing the Zoo for the daily visitors. Enter Grandfather and the troupe, all of whom are very enthusiastic about their visit. Peter is very excited to share his knowledge of the animals but is surprised that they are not as lively as expected. The troupe race off for ice creams but Peter stays behind as he is intrigued by the majestic Wolf who seems very sad locked in such a cramped cage. When the scouts return Peter appears looking guilty and rushes off.
Later that night Peter and Grandfather hear on the radio that the Wolf has escaped and is on the loose, however the next morning despite this news, Peter ventures into the great green meadow to play with his friends the Bird, the Duck and the Cat. Out of the forest comes the Wolf. Bird and Cat manage to get to safety in the tree, but no matter how hard the Duck tries to run she can’t escape the Wolf and he swallows her up. In the meantime, Peter has found a sturdy rope and uses his lasso to capture the Wolf and when the Zookeepers appear out of the woods they take the Wolf back to the Zoo where Peter starts to feel sorry for him again, as does the audience.
Everything about this production was faultless and delightful and kept the audience captivated from the first moment. The performances were exceptional with each dancer fully embodying their character, not only with dance but with gestures and nuances. Each Zookeeper (Dario Zanini-Sassani, Josh Fagan, Paige Ristevski, Isabella Berberichand), Scout (Indi Drew, Taron Geyl, Max Herringe, Eliza Wenham) and Wolf Crew (Max Jones, Joseph Moss, Hana Nonaka-Aillon, Shanti Barlow) had a distinctive personality, Peter (Sean Ferenczi) was wide-eyed, brave and enthusiastic, Grandfather (Ethan Gusman) was suitably doddery but fun, Bird (Mia Zanardo) was delicate and happy, Duck (Alisa Pukkinen) was quirky, bold and showy, Cat (Meghan Blackburn) was sly and lazy, and the Wolf (Jack Jones) was intense and menacing - capturing the physicality of the wild animal perfectly.
The all-important role of the Narrator was voiced to perfection by Hugh Parker. His storytelling ability was superb as he introduced the characters as he guided the audience through each scene and twist in the story. Sometimes fun, sometimes serious, his vocals were an absolute joy to listen to.
The contemporary take on this classic ballet and the choreography of the scenes worked beautifully, taking the audience on a visually interesting journey that was easy to understand, following the mood and tempo of the music as the narrative progressed. Each scene had its own energy and feel, and the demise of the duck was handled well with a slight sense of fun – keeping in mind the younger children. Of note was the innovative use of the whole stage during the cat and mouse game between Peter and the Wolf as Peter wrestles with the Wolf and tries to subdue it.
Everything was enhanced by the stunning costumes designed by Noelene Hill – loved the touch that the dance shoes were of colours that blended with the costuming, lighting design by Ben Hughes and a clever multifunctional set with a climbable tree by designer Josh McIntosh. Students from the Queensland Conservatorium were visible onstage as part of the performance, playing the much loved score.
If you have never experienced Peter and the Wolf, then this is the perfect production for that introduction, and if you are a fan already, you won’t be disappointed.
Queensland Ballet’s Peter and the Wolf plays until August 27 at the Thomas Dixon Centre
Presented by Queensland Ballet
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreographer: Greg Horsman
Music Arranger: Nigel Gaynor
Narrator: Hugh Parker
Pianist: Brett Sturdy
Music performed by students from the Qld Conservatorium Griffith University
Violin: Sola Hughes / Flute: Elinor Hillock / Oboe: Shana Hoshino / Clarinet: Nathanael Duffy /
Bassoon: Hayden Mears / French Horn: Madeleine Aarons / Percussion: Matthew Conway