The Russians came to Brighton last week and once again swept all before them.
The Russian State Ballet of Siberia performed Coppelia and Swan Lake at the Theatre Royal. Thursday, March 14, saw the company stage La Fille mal gardee – one of the oldest ballets kept alive through its history by many revivals including this one by Sir Frederick Ashton for the Royal Ballet in 1960.
It’s a deceptively simple story, lent enormous appeal and warmth thanks to the central comic role of a mother determined to negotiate terms for an honourable match for her daughter.
Daughter of course has other ideas – and wins the day, as daughters usually do.
This Siberian ballet is a true ensemble company – the programme is a generic one with two or three principals listed as taking lead roles throughout its progression around the UK.
Certainly farmer’s widow Simone was an elegant and supremely talented ‘pantomime dame’ character but her humour was never ungainly or lumpish – she sashayed across the stage, more swan than Mother Goose.
The prima ballerina who took the role of Lise was winsomely Audrey Hepburn-ish and her disobedience was leavened with charm and wit. Her chosen partner Colas danced with athleticism and verve, managing to stay suspended above the stage for longer than should be technically possible. Macho too with high Eastern cheekbones sharpened by dark hair drawn back into a pony tail – no, pony is the wrong word. This tail belonged to Ghengis’ charger. Plaudits too to Alain – the hapless stooge favoured by Simone – who was unafraid to demonstrate a soupcon of daftness without compromising his effortless domination of the Theatre Royal stage.
Ensemble pieces were beautifully costumed and danced with precision.
The ballet company travels with its own orchestra and Brighton’s capacity audience rewarded both dancers and instrumentalists with curtain calls and a fair few whistles and stamps of appreciation.
All credit to the whole company, choreographers and producers for adapting their performances to the compact geometry of the this beautiful stage.
And well done to the theatre which continues to offer its enthusiastic audience such a variety of performances; from Yes Prime Minister (this week) to The Mousetrap – from stand-up to the tragi-comedy of Quartermaine’s Terms which has now successfully transferred to the West End.