If you are looking for a special treat this Easter weekend, suitable for all the family and that won’t break the bank, be sure to check out the Tortoise & the Hare. It is being performed on Fri 25 March at 2pm & 4pm at the Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells. Tickets are just £8 for adults and £6 for children.
To learn a little more about this very special children’s ballet, The Wobbly Jelly caught up with Gavin McCaig to find out about his role of the Tortoise
Gavin McCaig is a dancer from Motherwell, who trained at The Dance School of Scotland for four years before receiving a scholarship to study at English National Ballet School. He joined Northern Ballet in 2014.
What is it like to be involved with creating a new character for a ballet?
One of our other dancers, Matthew Topliss, had the role created on him before the end of last season and it was then passed on to me to develop and bring the character to life for the first performances. I felt very proud to dance Sebastian and Dreda’s ballet, and tried my utmost to bring the character to life.
Have you danced in a children’s ballet before?
Yes, I danced in our production of Elves & the Shoemaker which I toured with extensively last season. I also played the Clog Man in the BBC version which aired on CBeebies.
What is the character like?
The character of the Tortoise is an interesting one. He has this all-knowing aura about him, yet is humble, kind, wise and reliable. I like to think he is everything you’d want to find in a tortoise if he could meet you for a coffee and have a catch-up!
How do you get into character?
Truth be told, I try and feel really sleepy and I usually lie down on my shell backstage for a while. In my first scene I have just woken up after a long sleep, so it helps to have been rested. It is quite a challenge to move so slowly and with such stiffness throughout the show when I have trained all my life not to be!
What aspects of the character do you try to bring into your dancing?
This role doesn’t require much actual dancing so the character really is the role! Everything I do from the way I tilt my head to the facial expressions I make is supposed to encompass this lovable and comic character. The other characters are more energetic so they do a lot more dancing than the Tortoise.
Did the character come to you right away or did it develop as the ballet was created?
It definitely developed. It changes from show to show too, depending on how the audience reacts. It was interesting to come to appreciate that you have to understand the kind of audience you have in front of you, and how much you can push or hold back on the comedy or facial expressions in order to get the best reaction. After the first technical rehearsal was out of the way I tried to perform each show more and more to what I believed the Tortoise would be like.
What are you thinking about while you’re dancing?
The character! The choreography and technical aspects are sorted by the time we perform, so I can really concentrate on being ‘the Tortoise’. The show is has such a strong narrative that I tend to speak the story in my head. When I offer my best friend Molly the Mole some tea in the tea scene, I’m actually offering her some tea in my head! This transcends to the kids and the rest of the audience a great deal more than worrying about my next cartwheel sequence.
Is the role difficult? Are the steps quite technical?
In this show the difficulty lies in the way I do things, as opposed to what I do. It’s trying to get the viscosity of the movement and play with the character on top that is the challenge.
What is your favourite part of playing the Tortoise?
When I hear the audience laugh! It is so fulfilling to know the kids and the rest of the audience are enjoying the show.
Why do you think it is important to introduce young children and their families to the world of ballet and theatre?
Ballet and theatre is a magical world. I would encourage parents to introduce their kids to the arts for so many reasons, the main one being I can say it is such a fulfilling pastime. To expose children to the arts captivates their imagination and encourages engagement on so many levels. It’s also a great family day out, and the kids are sure to love what they are seeing on stage.
Can you tell us a little about the costumes audiences can expect to see?
The costumes for the show are wonderful. I couldn’t have imagined a better Tortoise costume! I want to steal his waistcoat and shirt for my own wardrobe, along with a pretty cool shell. The competitive Hare’s costume is true-to-imagination, along with a black and yellow buzzy-bee tutu and a wonderful flowing, glistening butterfly costume with layers of Arabian-inspired material. I won’t give more away – you’ll have to see for yourself!
The show is set to an original score by Bruno Merz. How did you find working with the music?
It was great to work with the music. Bruno has completely embodied the heart and soul of the story and its morals. It’s playful and engaging in every sense.
http://www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk Box office 01892 530613