History in the Making

RWB’s The Handmaid’s Tale (10-14 October, 2018)

The Handmaid’s Tale  has been very of-the-moment in the last few years; with the current political climate in the US and the Hulu television show, it is being discussed everywhere. Well, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet actually premiered The Handmaid’s Tale as a ballet in 2013, long before the show was ever a thought, and have brought it back for audience’s to enjoy once again! Most choreographers and creators tend to stay away from adapting novels into ballets, but Lila York’s creation is simply a masterpiece. The RWB’s The Handmaid’s Tale runs from Wednesday, October 10th to Sunday, October 14th, and it is not to be missed!

RWB's The Handmaid's Tale (2018)

The Handmaid’s Tale is Margaret Atwood’s infamous novel that follows Offred, a woman in a dystopian society who is forced to bear children for the ruling class. A society full of complex and oppressive rules, a past life, and a faint hope for the future all make for an engaging and powerful story to watch on stage!

Handmaids from the RWB's Handmaid's Tale (2018)
2018 – The Handmaids Tale – RWB Company – Photo by David Cooper

The RWB’s production of The Handmaid’s Tale was originally created by Lila York to premiere in 2013. Lila is an exceptionally talented choreographer, and I am so thankful that I was also able to see the RWB perform Celts, another one of Lila’s pieces. I personally am a fan of story ballets; as a dancer myself, I appreciate abstract pieces but I think that story ballets do well to bring the art to a wider audience and make it easier for new fans to engage. Although you tend not to see novels made into ballets very often, Lila was very conscious of what she was doing. I was quite happy to attend the open rehearsal for Handmaid’s Tale, and Lila actually spoke to this in the Q&A afterwards. “This is really a plot driven story… things happen to the main character, so I was really working with the material of the novel so I didn’t go too far astray.”

RWB Company in The Handmaid's Tale
2013 – The Handmaids Tale – RWB Company – Photo courtesy of RWB

What excites me most about this particular ballet is that in contrast to the television show, you don’t get bogged down in the details. You aren’t tracking where Gilead has control of, you aren’t paying attention to exactly who attended what, and you aren’t watching so much direct violence. We are brought along on Offred’s emotional journey rather than solely the plot, and it makes it much richer and more fulfilling experience as an audience member. Lila also spoke at the rehearsal about the role of music in the production, and I think that she made her choices brilliantly- the music is contemporary rather than classical, and she makes several different composers fit together into a single production seamlessly.

Offred and Commander Waterford, RWB's The Handmaid's Tale (2018)
2018 – The Handmaids Tale – Alanna McAdie and Josh Reynolds – Photo by David Cooper, Courtesy of the RWB

I think that this is the perfect ballet to go to if you think that ballet isn’t relevant or that it can be boring- The Handmaid’s Tale could not be a more important story in 2018, and you will not be able to look away from start to finish. The costumes along are so striking that you won’t be able to look away, but Elizabeth Lamont is so incredibly expressive and powerful as the lead that you will find yourself invested in Offred’s life as much as your own until the curtain call. The choreography, costumes, and setting allow the entire company to bring their own individual talents to the piece and build an emotional and realistic performance, and we could not be more fortunate to have it right here in Winnipeg!

RWB's The Handmaid's Tale
2013 – The Handmaids Tale – Amanda Green with RWB Company Dancers – Photo by Vince Pahkala , Courtesy of the RWB

RWB Book Club

I am very excited to be a member of the RWB’s new book club! We will be reading the novel or story behind each production this season, and I’m very happy to be starting with The Handmaid’s Tale. If you are interested in joining the club, there is an online discussion group, as well as an in-person meeting after the Friday evening performance of each production. If you are attending another evening, like myself, make sure to save your ticket- you can arrive at the Concert Hall for around 9:15 to join the discussion!

Please note that this show is not recommended for audience members under the age of 12. For more information about the show and to buy tickets, please visit the RWB here!

Have you read the Handmaid’s Tale yourself? And will you be joining me for opening night for the RWB’s The Handmaid’s Tale?

The Historian
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2 thoughts on “RWB’s The Handmaid’s Tale (10-14 October, 2018)”

  • This is so cool! I admittedly am not a fan of THE HANDMAID’S TALE, but that’s because I don’t like dystopian novels very much. However, I agree that the story is incredibly important, particularly in this day and age, and it’s awesome that it has been adapted into a ballet! This is something I would definitely like to see. If only I lived in Winnipeg! The costumes look really great, too. Ballet is such a perfect dance medium for this story. Ballerinas look so delicate and graceful when they dance, but the physical strength required to do what they do is incredibly impressive. They are not nearly as fragile as they may seem in their performances. A good lesson to be learned there. 😉

    • I usually hate dystopian novels- the world is depressing enough, we don’t need more of it! This is required reading in high school for most Canadians though haha, and Atwood is quite clever with it. I went to the book club after the show last night, and we had a wonderful discussion about how the ballet portrayed everything 😊 They really do bring an emotional side to the story which I think is largely missing from the television show!

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