Book Release: Kristian Fredrikson, Designer by Michelle Potter

Michelle Potter brings to life the career of acclaimed Wellington-born designer Kristian Fredrikson (1940-2005), who worked across the arts in both Australia and New Zealand, including here at the Royal New Zealand Ballet, in particular his designs for Peter Pan (1999), Swan Lake (last seen in 2013) and Coppélia (production for The Australian Ballet, last performed by the RNZB in 2014).

Dive into his collaborations with leading choreographers and directors, scenes of unleashed imagination, breathtaking beauty and impeccable craftsmanship, pulsing with human emotion.

Abigail Boyle as the Princess Mother in Russell Kerr’s Swan Lake. Royal New Zealand Ballet, revival of 2007. Photo: © Maarten Holl/RNZB. Courtesy Matthew Lawrence 

Russell Kerr has read the book:

Opening Michelle Potter’s book submerges my imaginings to times before such masterworks were completed — to a time when sitting to discuss with Kristian the basic elements of a new work — and if there was a quick sketch of something Kristian wished to clarify, I had learnt not to ask if I could have the sketch. To me it was a hurried work of art, to Kristian it probably already contained a host of details he would refer to as his creativity progressed.

I always reacted to the recognizable life in Kristian’s designs, to the extent I could feel my body attempting to take on something of the characteristics conceived by the personalities within the completed designs, and so evident in each and every photo in this book.

As his designs arrived, they would be placed where I could see them when sitting at computer or tape recorder, working on the choreography. This was particularly helpful when creating Peter Pan with ten Lost Boys, eight Pirates plus the numerous other characters all individually designed and all waiting to be lifted off the designer’s page where they had already been given life. 

With new music by Philip Norman, and with Kristian’s vibrantly alive designs, it was indeed a satisfying creative time for the three of us.   

Christchurch, September 2020

Kristian Fredrikson, tutu for Odile in Harry Haythorne’s Swan Lake Act III. Royal New Zealand Ballet, 1985. Photo: © Jeff McEwan. The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Gift of Royal New Zealand Ballet  

These memories from Russell in turn help to trigger our own memories of that fabulous ballet, Peter Pan, so brilliantly captured here in Michelle Potter’s writings and choice of illustrations.  Who can forget Jon Trimmer as the seductively alluring Captain Hook, Shannon Dawson as the doddling duffer Pirate Smee, and Jane Turner as an exquisite Tinkerbell. Peter Pan’s dance with his shadow was inspired choreography, the scene of flying puppet Darling children as they floated towards Neverland was inspired design.

Another much-loved much-remembered favourite of Fredrikson’s designs for the RNZB was Gray Veredon’s hilarious A Servant of Two Masters (1989).  A somewhat flickering video of this full-length ballet can be viewed by appointment at Nga Taonga Sound & Vision (the former Film Archive now housed within the National Library). It is well worth the effort involved, to be reminded of the fabulous performances by a stellar cast —  Eric Languet, Jon Trimmer, Harry Haythorne, Cathy Goss, Kerry-Anne Gilberd, Lee Patrice, and the inimitable Warren Douglas.

Read Ian Lochhead’s review

Craig Lord as von Rothbart in Russell Kerr’s Swan Lake. Royal New Zealand Ballet, revival of 2007. Photo: © Maarten Holl/RNZB. Courtesy Matthew Lawrence 

Written with contributions from Jennifer Shennan and Russell Kerr.

Captain Hook from Peter Pan 2 Marjorie Head collection PIC Kristian Fredrikson, concept drawing for Captain Hook and Peter Pan in Peter Pan. Royal New Zealand Ballet, 1999. Marjorie Head Collection, National Library of Australia, PIC 20287/6