The Lighthouse Keepers sees father and son isolated on a wintry night – the son with a terrible confession to make. In Rumpelstiltskin, a miller boasts that his daughter can spin wheat into gold. She is put to the test, her life at stake if she fails.
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David Sawer's Rumpelstiltskin was first performed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group in 2009. Adapted from the Brothers Grimm fairytale, it depicts the terrible consequences of an idle boast and so becomes a far-reaching contemporary parable. Sawer describes the work as a ballet, adding 'there are no conventional ballet steps. It’s more in the feel of a silent film… [the dancers] make the music visible, they articulate it through their gestures and movements'. This feel is furthered by Richard Jones's ingenious direction. Thirteen instrumentalists provide accompaniment in a rich, varied and haunting score described by The Times as 'a tour de force'.
Sawer wrote The Lighthouse Keepers in 2013, always conceiving the work as a companion piece for Rumpelstiltskin. David Harrower adapted the text from a 1905 grand guignol play by Paul Autier and Paul Cloquemin. Described as a 'radio play', in The Lighthouse Keepers the two protagonists proclaim text and provide radio 'sound effects' in front of the audience to commentary provided by nine instrumentalists. It is a conscious re-creation of the 'theatre of the mind' and an intensification of the horrifying claustrophobia inherent in the play.