Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Iconic The Scandal at Mayerling ReImagined by Scottish Ballet

Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s iconic ballet about a dysfunctional royal family, depicting real events from 1889 and boldly created in 1978, has been reimagined and redesigned by Scottish Ballet.

This World Premiere production, featuring the entire Scottish Ballet company of 40+ dancers, will be the first time Sir Kenneth’s celebrated ballet has been produced in the UK outside of London. The ballet features nine intense, dramatic duets between Prince Rudolf, his wife, his mistresses and his mother, some both physically intricate and erotically charged.

Dancers and rehearsal staff are taking part in a series of workshops with renowned Fight and Intimacy Direction company Rc-Annie in preparation for rehearsals and performances. The workshops, which will include intimacy coaching, boundary setting and training in the safe use of Replica Imitation Firearms, will allow greater authenticity to scenes, while ensuring dancers and staff are supported throughout the tour. Scottish Ballet is believed to be the first ballet company in the world to do this.

Set in 1889 in the opulent, royal courts of Vienna, The Scandal at Mayerling tells the true story of the Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, an anti-hero as compelling as Hamlet. He enjoyed the privileges of a royal lifestyle – elaborate parties and his every whim catered for. But with it came mistresses, alcohol and drugs in excess – as his mental health rapidly declined and his place at Court became ever more tenuous, he developed a morbid fascination with death. The ‘scandal’ erupted when he and his teenage mistress Mary Vetsera were discovered dead in an apparent murder-suicide at the Mayerling imperial hunting lodge in the woods outside the city.

The original production, Mayerling, premiered at the Royal Ballet in 1978 (a Royal Gala performance on Valentine’s Day, no less) and was hailed for both its epic grandiosity and breathtaking choreography. Scottish Ballet’s version refocuses the spotlight on the lethal power dynamics between Rudolf and the women in his life, his wife, his mother and his mistresses, in a series of increasingly intense duets.

Lady Deborah MacMillan, widow of Sir Kenneth MacMillan, said, “Kenneth didn’t set out to shock people but was acutely aware that in the ballet world of fairies and tutus, more realistic insights into human behaviour might prove difficult. It didn’t stop him, however, and the fact that 30 years after his death his work is still selling tickets is, I think, a testament to his work and the audience response. There is a strong Scottish connection – Kenneth was born in Dunfermline – and Scottish Ballet attests to the highest aims of ballet companies worldwide, performing the best of the classics as well as looking to the future in choreography, design and new technologies.”

With the full company on stage, lavish new set and costume designs from Ellin Steele, and the Franz Liszt score performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, The Scandal at Mayerling is set to startle audiences across Scotland.

The production is recommended for audiences aged 12+ and comes with a content warning that it includes themes of mental illness, sexual violence, addiction and suicide. Scottish Ballet is working with SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) to ensure messaging is appropriate.

Tour dates:

13th-16th April 2022 Glasgow
21st-23rd April 2022 Inverness
5th-7th May 2022      Aberdeen

25th-28th May 2022  Edinburgh

Irene Brown

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