By Kelly Apter
29 July 2019
In 2014, when Scottish Ballet premiered Helen Pickett’s one-act version of The Crucible, I wrote in my review that ‘the world needs more Helen Picketts’. Five years later, with the imbalance between male and female choreographers on the world stage still problematic, I stand by that statement. But happily, in 2019 what we do have is more of Pickett herself – literally.
That 45-minute, one-act adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witch trials has been razed to the ground and rebuilt – emerging as a full-length narrative ballet that will premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. Written in 1953, Miller’s tale of 17th-century paranoia and oppression has benefitted not only from Pickett’s punchy and intelligent choreography, but the assured directorial wisdom of James Bonas.
Each brings something unique and special – Pickett trained at San Francisco Ballet, spent 11 years working with William Forsythe at Ballet Frankfurt, then moved to New York to hone her own creative style. Bonas bagged a First from Oxford University then studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, before carving out a career as an actor, then theatre and opera director.
‘I’d never worked on a ballet before,’ concedes Bonas straight off the bat, ‘I didn’t even call myself a dramaturg, because I didn’t know what that meant. But the principal thing I could bring to The Crucible, is how to tell a story with people’s bodies – and a lot of the work I’ve done in both theatre and opera is coming from that place anyway.
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