Tag Archives: Ballet

REVIEW: Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

American choreographer Helen Pickett seals her reputation as a masterful creator of narrative ballet in her adaptation of Arthur Miller’s seminal play The Crucible. Teaming up with Scottish Ballet, themselves with a not-too-shabby reputation for staging classic American literary works (2012’s A Streetcar Named Desire), together they deliver a gripping, unsettling, goose bump-inducing work.

The prescience of the subject matter is in itself chilling, that a work written at the height of the Cold War and set at the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690’s, has a relevance in 2019, is shuddering to acknowledge.

Pickett’s choreography is refreshingly original, a blast of beautiful, lyrical modernity set against a historic backdrop. Her background as not only a dancer, but accomplished actress, has reaped dividends in this work. Each character is clearly defined, and the choreography is sufficiently emotive, nuanced and descriptive enough to drive the narrative.

Emma Kingsbury and David Finn’s design, dark and claustrophobic, is almost a character in itself and the wonderfully named Peter Salem’s score is a knock-out, pulsating, atmospheric, the sense of foreboding building throughout. It is notable in its perfect reflection of time and place, and is played gorgeously by the Scottish Ballet orchestra.

This is a company of universal quality and the entire work is danced with conviction, Barnaby Rook Bishop shines as John Proctor as does Bethany Kingsley-Garner as his wronged wife Elizabeth, who has matured into a beautifully nuanced dancer, Claire Souet is explosive as the vengeful manipulator Abigail and Katlyn Addison’s powerful, exquisitely danced Tituba is a delight.

This explosive work is a thrill from start to end, a fitting and unmissable addition to Scottish Ballet’s 50th anniversary season.

Runs until 28 September 2019 | Image: Jane Hobson

REVIEW: Scottish Ballet’s Wee Hansel and Gretel – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Scottish Ballet present “a wee version of a big ballet”, a perfectly distilled version of their family favourite Hansel and Gretel, specifically aimed at children aged three to eight.

A dangerous (well, mildly perilous but age-appropriate) adventure into the deep dark wood with the inquisitive siblings – Wee Hansel and Gretel faithfully follows the traditional tale: there’s the worrisome witch, her mysterious raven companion, the magic forest and the enchanted gingerbread house.

The addition of a narrator (James Siggens) who presents a rhyming introduction to set the scene and explanation of the unfolding action, is a neat touch. He engages the audience from curtain up with a whole heap of audience participation, including magically controlling the lights, much to the amazement of the tiny theatre-goers.

Set to the music of Engelbert Humperdinck, recorded by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, the production includes students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The tutu-clad trio provide the traditional costumes expected by the mini-ballet buffs, though these three tutus on stage are vastly outnumbered by the gloriously clad audience who are decked in their best ballet finery for the occasion. In the role of Hansel, Constant Vigier is, as always, a safe pair of ballet slippers and his Gretel, Alice Kawalek is a star in waiting.

This 50-minute tiny treasure of a production is small, but absolutely perfectly formed. The run time is ideal, the storytelling judiciously edited to fit in everything it needs to shine. It captures and keeps the attention for the entirety of the performance and provides a satisfying morning’s or afternoon’s entertainment for adults and children alike. More of this please!

The tour continues until October :  Glasgow tomorrow (Sunday 14 July) 

For complete touring dates and venues visit: scottishballet.co.uk/event/wee-hansel-gretel

Images: Rimbaud Patron

 

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

It isn’t hyperbole to say that Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake changed the face of classical dance forever. Retaining Tchaikovsky’s original score, the rest of the ballet is turned completely on its head. For all its fantasy, in Bourne’s hands the story takes on a much more ‘human’ form. Instead of the Odette/Odile/Siegfried triangle it is now the tale of a melancholic, maternally rejected prince whose emotional demise we track through the course of this exquisitely conceived and delivered production. It is a dark and at times sinister tale of repression and sexual fantasy, punctuated throughout with clever humour. It is also, of course, that show with the gender swapped swans: instead of the prettily prancing pens, it’s a herd of predatory and powerful cobs sizzling with electricity and a large dose of menace. In ridding the story of its expected gender roles it has much more power.

Literally seen by millions around the world, it returns in 2019 with a fresh new (though not radically changed) look for the 21st Century at the hands of original designer Lez Brotherston, with a new lighting design from Paule Constable and with a few of the more tired background characters refreshed. This is a show that even without the changes can withstand multiple re-visits.

The stage bristles with life from curtain up and with intriguing choreographic ideas and mesmerising sequences of movement throughout, it is impossible not to be captivated. Dominic North’s Prince is beautifully danced and emotionally poignant and Max Westwell has a formidable presence, ensuring a searing and memorable performance as the Swan/Stranger.

Tchaikovsky’s 1875/6 score is re-ordered here and is sufficiently varied that a modern interpretation of the story can hang on it perfectly. It is fundamentally beautiful whichever order it is played in, and in whatever era its ballet is set.

Ballet snobs will hate it, but you would need to be emotionally and artistically devoid to fail to appreciate the visual spectacle and the sheer originality of storytelling and staging. Nearly a quarter of a century on it remains as utterly perfect as it ever was. Unmissable.

Runs until 9 March 2019 | Image: Contributed

This post was originally written for the Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Red Shoes – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

woman with red hair clutches pair of red ballet shoes

Taking Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948, Technicolor masterpiece of British cinema, The Red Shoes and turning it into a fully-fledged ballet, sounds like madness, but, in the hands of dance superstar Matthew Bourne, it’s an unmitigated triumph.

Along with young composer Julian Craster (Dominic North), aspiring dance star Vicky Page’s (Ashley Shaw) quiet determination takes her from the chorus line to centre stage when she impresses the Diaghilev-like ballet impresario Boris Lermontov. However, it soon becomes a case of be careful what you wish for when she has to choose between love and her obsession for dance.

As ever in New Adventures work, this cinematic production is replete with tiny detail and humour (the cigarettes dangling from the dancers’ mouths and the principal dancers miming their way through rehearsals are particularly funny). Lez Brotherston’s clever set design, enhanced by Paule Constable’s atmospheric lighting, takes the action seamlessly from the elegant salons of London, to front/back stage of the ballet, the streets of Monte Carlo to a run-down East End music hall. The moving proscenium arch design is particularly clever and sweeps the action along at a break-neck speed.

Terry Davies’ orchestrations of the legendary work of Bernard Herrman (taken from The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Citizen Kane) are faultless and lend the piece the suspense it requires. There’s also clever work from Paul Groothuis, whose sound design amps up the atmosphere in the auditorium.

The dancers are universally outstanding, as ever, and the choreography detailed and utterly absorbing. There’s little more you can say save that this is an outstanding piece of dance theatre – more please.

Images by Johan Persson/Tristram Kenton

 

REVIEW: Scottish Ballet Autumn Season Sibilo/Emergence – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The most gratifying thing about Scottish Ballet’s Autumn Season launch isn’t the two undoubtedly striking pieces of work on show – Sophie Laplane’s Sibilo and Crystal Pite’s Emergence, rather the sheer quantity and diversity of its audience. With increasing dialogue on the inaccessibility of the arts, to all but the middle aged, middle class, it’s gratifying to see a packed house of all ages.

The two contemporary pieces, one from the most in-demand choreographer of the moment Pite, the other from one of Scottish Ballet’s own dancers Laplane, are equally compelling.

Sibilo, Laplane’s first full-length piece for the company, after last year’s ‘surprise’ showcase at the autumn season launch, is built around the themes of routine in society, loss of spontaneity and showing your true self, it is deftly handled, hugely entertaining and highly amusing. Refreshingly, as choreographer and dancers are working together daily as colleagues, the short vignettes showcase the personalities of the six dancers perfectly. Laplane’s original and innovative work grabs the attention from the start and keeps it throughout, more than holding its own against the world-renowned Pite.

Emergence, created by Pite for the National Ballet of Canada in 2009, takes as its starting point “the way that complex systems or structures arise out of a multiplicity of simple interactions”. To Owen Breton’s atmospheric score, and against the nest-like set design of Jay Gower Taylor, the entire corps de ballet, a times solo, in duos, trios, quartets, and sextets explore the concept of swarm intelligence – the movements: ritualistic, mesmerising, insect-like, build to a stunning climax where the 36 company members dance onstage together. It is a disciplined display that beautifully marries classical and contemporary technique.

Mention must also be made of this year’s ‘surprise’ piece, Jack Webb’s Drawn to Drone, a compelling solo, performed by principal Christopher Harrison. Lying supine on two chairs, Harrison carves the space in stunning style, rippling muscles appearing other-worldly, alien, insect-like. Stylistically and thematically it is a perfect fit for Pite’s Emergence. Webb is most definitely a talent to watch for.

Runs until 1 October 2016 in Glasgow, then touring Scotland.

Details: https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/autumn-2016

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Considered by many the most audience conscious of artists, credit must undoubtedly go to Matthew Bourne for his groundbreaking work, his originality of vision, and for the popularization of ballet among the masses. Indeed, the packed house at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal is a testament to that.

For this production Sleeping Beauty, Bourne returns to the music of Tchaikovsky to complete his trio of the composer’s ballet masterworks that started in 1992 with Nutcracker! and, most famously, in 1995, with the international hit Swan Lake.

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Charles Perrault’s timeless fairy tale, about a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years, was turned into a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa in 1890. Bourne takes this date as his starting point, setting the Christening of Aurora, the story’s heroine, in the year of the ballet’s first performance; the height of the Fin-de-Siècle period when fairies, vampires and decadence fed the gothic imagination. Here, the traditional tale of good versus evil is turned on its head to create a supernaturally tinged, time-travelling love story.

The tone is set even before the curtain rises: the vine-covered title superimposed on the curtain, takes us instantly to the pages of a Grimm fairy tale. The music starts and the legend Once upon a time… appears to chuckles of recognition from the audience. We are then taken on a mesmerising journey in this Gothic re-telling of the familiar tale.

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Visually stunning, even more so than Bourne’s previous works, this is ballet as you want it to be – the sets and costumes in themselves evoking an emotional response from the audience, the beautiful, familiar music of Tchaikovsky, the perfect fairy-tale score. The choreography too is innovative, unlike traditional ballet companies, Bourne never feels constrained to stick to one particular style. Instead, each scene is imbued with a unique character and appropriate movement vocabulary. And to Bourne’s credit there is never an indulgent moment, every step sharply drives the plot.

This is a picture book perfect re-telling of the tale – full of visual delights and gasp-inducing moments and each member of this company is as talented and captivating as the other. New Adventures are the best of the best, and this is a production not to be missed. Sheer theatrical perfection. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Runs until 21 November 2015 | Images: Simon Annand/Johan Persson

*This review was originally written for the Reviews Hub at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/sleeping-beauty-theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Despite 15 years passing since its premiere, Matthew Bourne’s boundary pushing The Car Man is still managing to captivate, enthrall and excite audiences around the globe.

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Taking as its inspiration James M. Cain’s classic novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, and set to Rodion Shchedrin’s Bolshoi Ballet version of George Bizet’s Carmen (with additional music composed by Terry Davies) The Car Man is renowned for its no holds barred portrayal of sex, violence and homoeroticism and I’m glad to report, it has lost none of its power down the years.

matthew bourne car man

It’s the early 60’s in small town Harmony, opportunistic drifter Luca (Tim Hodges) rolls into town and changes the lives of everyone he meets. First seducing Lana (Ashley Shaw) the local garage owner’s young wife, then the timid and much picked upon Angelo (Liam Mower), he incites and inspires lust and jealousy in equal measure eventually resulting in murder, miscarriage of justice and finally revenge.

car man tour matthew bourneThe sweltering heat of the setting, story line and the sensual movement pervades the auditorium. If this doesn’t leave you hot under the collar then I’m not sure what would. There is full-frontal male nudity and frank portrayals of sex throughout but it is oh so skilfully done, never gratuitous and at all times essential to the plot.

the car man matthe bourneThe pacing as well as the footwork is perfect, the story line is driven along at a blinding pace and the choreography captivating and impeccably executed throughout. It is a visual feast scenically as well as choreographically, Lez Brotherston’s inventive transforming set and its complementary lighting from Chris Davey are wonderfully evocative.

The Car Man remains a sizzling hot sensation which still excites. Matthew Bourne really can do no wrong.

REVIEW: Scottish Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Returning to the stage three years after its award-winning debut, Nancy Meckler’s direction, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s choreography and Tennessee Williams’ sublime words unite once again to create a richly atmospheric, captivating, Streetcar Named Desire from Scottish Ballet.

From her first fragile appearance fluttering around a bare lightbulb as a moth to a flame, it chronologically charts the agonising demise of fragile southern belle Blanche DuBois. From Blanche’s girlish innocence shattered on her wedding day when her husband’s homosexuality is discovered to his subsequent suicide, through the loss of her family home (startlingly realised onstage), her wilderness years relying on the kindness of paying strangers in sleazy motels, to her arrival on the doorstep of her younger sister Stella and her violent and boorish husband Stanley.

What is most surprising about this masterfully executed production is the fact that in the 100 minute running time, the creative team have not only stayed faithful to the source work but managed to pack in its contents in their entirety. A series of short, sharp scenes drives the narrative at break neck speed .

This is also a ballet that borrows heavily from the conventions of musical theatre, indeed there are hints ofGuys and Dolls and West Side Story in both the staging and the choreography, but instead of diminishing its power it all serves to enhance the storytelling and the audience’s enjoyment.

The design by Niki Turner is spare but effective and there is a knock-out score from Peter Salem, evocative and transixing it transports us right to the heart of the tale.

Eve Mutso is elegant and hugely accomplished as the wide-eyed, other worldly Blanche, indeed, she possesses a natural acting ability to complement her supreme dancing skills, however she is a striking presence, one of strength and power which is at times at odds with the butterfly-like fragility that is required for Blanche. Mutso is capably supported by Sophie Martin as sister Stella and Erik Cavallari is a suitably menacing Stanley.

This is production which strikingly breathes life into William’s classic tale  and one which will leave a lasting impression long after the curtain has gone down.

This review was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-festival-theatre-edinburgh/

REVIEW: Dracula, Mark Bruce Company – Tramway, Glasgow

Played out against an impressively atmospheric and quite frankly terrifying set by Phil Eddolls, which becomes graveyard, tavern, salon and castle with horse-drawn carriage and even baying hounds, Mark Bruce’s dance version of Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic classic Dracula is a phenomenally impressive piece of theatre.

ch-dracula-jonathan-goddard-publicity-head_950It grips from the first step and is hypnotic and transfixing to the last. Jonathan Goddard is impressive in the title role, keeping the performance strong, sensual and tortured, never veering into cheap eroticism, indeed so affecting is his portrayal that you can’t help wishing his pain away.

image by farrows creativeThere are a few moments of levity in the proceedings to off-set the horror but the overwhelming feeling is of darkness and whilst faithful to the original it is not slavishly so. There are many delightful nods to the original: a dove that carries letters to and from Jonathan and Mina, echoing the novel’s letters and diary entries and Dracula’s arrival in Whitby as a black dog but this time clad in a rather natty silk top hat. There is also a fantastically staged and choreographed folk-dance sequence which adds greatly to the atmosphere as Jonathan travels through Transylvania.

blogger-image-1176815377A company to look out for and a fantastic addition to the Dracula myth.

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REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – King’s Theatre, Glasgow (2014 production)

Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE. 15-12-20095*****

Once in a while a production comes along that restores your faith in theatre. For me Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is that show.

Since the original production in 1995, Swan Lake has been breaking records the world over (it is both the longest running ballet in both the West End and Broadway). Now firmly established as a modern classic it returns to Glasgow with a bang at the King’s Theatre this week.

1655987_690164987702206_2014433079_nUsing Tchaikovsky’s original score and the broad plot outline, the focus is redirected from Odette/Odile to the the Prince. Doomed to a life of royal duty, spoiled and saddled with a distant, un-loving mother (with whom he has a mummy fixation), he tries to find his feet in the world: dating unsuitable women, drinking heavily and struggling with his sexuality. He longs desperately for liberty and love. Bourne’s imaginative take injects a vitality, freshness and relevance to the story along with his trademark wit.

1939766_690165437702161_2012253257_nEnhanced by the fiercely imaginative design and staging by Lez Brotherston the production remains (19 years later) superbly atmospheric and brilliantly inventive. The action moving swiftly from palace to opera house to sleezy bar to ballroom with ease. There are visual gags and artistic treats throughout but to go into detail would spoil the surprise.

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1924665_690686037650101_1044259240_nAt first shadowy fragments at the edge of his consciousness, it takes until Act 2 for the now famous male corps de ballet to appear to the Prince. The atmosphere is tangible – you can feel the anticipation grow as we edge closer to the arrival of the swans. Explosive, exhilerating and electrifying – they do not disappoint. The striking sequences of movement are finely detailed, dangerously sexual and utterly spine-tingling.

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1689010_691258464259525_1985150737_nThe superb central performance by Chris Trenfield as The Swan/The Stranger is simply stunning: strong, sensual, masculine and mesmeric. Liam Mower is in turn delicately sensitive and conflicted as the Prince.

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1779039_691771810874857_1350535719_nHeard at the interval “I never want to see a bunch of women tottering around in tutus in Swan lake again”, I can only agree – Bourne leaves you in no doubt that this is how Swan Lake really should be. He also goes some way to redressing the imbalance in ballet: it is a rare treat to see the physicality and artistry of male dancers showcased like this.

Utterly moving and exhilerating it is a rare treat for the soul.

The global phenomenon is still as radical, riveting and richly crafted as it ever was and judging by the thunderous applause and standing ovation from the sell-out audience the public can’t get enough.

This is a work that truly deserves to be called a masterpiece.

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