The very brief English National Ballet season was also notable for the inclusion of Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort which was given a powerful performance by the company. Kylián, is one of the major architects of dance in the modern age but his remarkable talents have strangely never been recognised in London.
Spine chilling Fairy Tale
At the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House there was another surprise; Hansel and Gretel in a version as spine chilling and gripping as a horror movie. Liam Scarlett, still only 27, earlier tackled, and didn’t quite succeed, in telling a complex story with Sweet Violets, a one-act ballet on the main stage, weaving the life of artist Walter Sickert into Jack the Ripper’s London.
But here, in a confined space cluttered with 50s domesticity, the well-known fairy-tale and our current tabloid horrors of child abduction fuse into a compelling scenario. The small cast, all top ballet dancers revealed hidden dramatic depths.
Steven McRae, as The Sandman, is a sinister and ambivalent presence with a disjointed gait, vacillating between puppet and master while Brian Maloney as The Witch is terrifyingly normal. He is the all-American boy, his blonde hair slicked back, neatly dressed down to socks and ballet shoes but the pieces don’t quite fit and through the gaps his madness suppurates.
Leanne Cope and James Hay as the children inject the only positive energy. Foolishly tricked into the cellar they manipulate their escape after several nail-biting episodes and then in an ending to make the blood run cold, return to the empty house and assume the roles of their dysfunctional parents. In these roles Laura Morera plays a chain-smoking, shallow stereotype of a stepmother and Bennet Gartside, a sad but sympathetic father.
The choreography when involved in the story was effective but it also had weak moments when Scarlett relied on standard ballet vocabulary which sat uncomfortably in the nightmare. The commissioned score from Dan Jones was no small part of the success driving the drama on while Jon Bausor multi-level set, which I imagine was the most expensive ever in a black box theatre, fitted the two houses, garden and woods into the tiny space with IKEA precision.
June 5, 2013