The production is described as a ‘witty, gritty modern fairytale opera’, a medium which composer Jonathan Dove believes is “natural” for children. “Children love stories. Most enjoy singing too.” He adds, “singing presents no obstacle to children, so long as they are interested in the story.”
Based on a mixture of Romanian, Norwegian and classical folktales, the story involves a princess who discovers her husband to be is not a king, but a pig. While this may raise questions of how suitable a ‘girl loves beast’ tale is for younger viewers, Dove believes it does not present a problem, stressing, “the pig turns into a prince at night, so that’s all right”.
Commissioned by the Young Vic to write an opera for their annual Christmas show three years ago, Dove and writer Alasdair Middleton, developed The Enchanted Pig after elements of their first idea, a musical version of the Grimm fairytale, Donkeyskin, were deemed unsuitable for the target audience.
Dove says the fact the story involves a king who “decides he wants to marry his daughter”, proved to be “an insurmountable problem”. He adds that while the producers “agreed with us that this could be told as a funny scene…they knew that no teacher would bring their class to see it. So, instead we chose The Enchanted Pig”.
Described as “not your usual fairytale”, Pig contains the usual, timeless theme of good versus evil, while incorporating a contemporary feel.
Designed to appeal “to young and old”, Dove hopes the right balance has been achieved. “We…learned that if the stage is dark and not much is happening and the music is slow and quiet, young people would rather be anywhere else than in that theatre.” He admits that this led to some difficult creative choices. “After a few incredibly restless episodes in previews, I reluctantly cut one of my favourite pieces of slow, quiet music. There was a universal sigh of relief”.
The Enchanted Pig is suitable for ages six and up. The only Yorkshire date is on 7 April, with shows at 2pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are available from the Lawrence Batley Theatre Box Office at 01484 430528 or online at www.thelbt.org.
- Hannah Giles