The star turns of Alastair Marriott’s new work The Unknown Soldier are Es Devlin’s set and Bruno Poet’s lighting design, and if this had been an installation at Tate Modern, I would have been thrilled by the iridescent colours and the use of shadow. As a multi-media ballet at the Royal Opera House, it is less effective: at times the partially lowered curtain bathed in shimmering streams of rainbow light, or the large screen that descended from above, obscured the back of the stage; even from row C of the Amphitheatre sightlines seemed perilous. Marriott aspires to tell his story from a primarily female perspective, drawing on the recorded words of Florence Billington, who is shown in archive footage projected on the front curtain, and danced by Yasmine Naghdi. The other two named roles are for men; Matthew Ball as Ted Feltham (the soldier), and Leo Dixon as the Telegraph Boy, dressed in a kinky shiny uniform with see-through effect. (more…)

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I had seen Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker once in the 1980s, but its performance by the Royal Ballet on Saturday was a revelation to me.   I had completely forgotten how, by beginning and ending the story with Herr Drosselmeyer, Wright gives the action a unity, logic and coherence that is often lacking in this ballet, which can so easily fall into two virtually separate parts.

The conjuring and special effects, above all the magical growing Christmas tree, entranced an audience that was liberally sprinkled with small children, but it was the quality of the dancing and the drama that made this performance a special one. It felt like a new ballet. (more…)