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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A welcome opportunity to see The Royal Ballet perform Wayne McGregor‘s Woolf Works in live transmission from the Royal Opera House at Oxford’s Phoenix Picturehouse on Wednesday 8th February.

‘Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end… the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it.’ – Virginia Woolf, Modern Fiction

Wayne McGregor’s ballet triptych Woolf Works, inspired by the writings of Virginia Woolf, met with critical acclaim on its premiere in 2015, and went on to win McGregor the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Classical Choreography and the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. The Observer described it as ‘a compellingly moving experience’; for The Independent it ‘glows with ambition… a brave, thoughtful work’; The Guardian concluded that ‘it takes both McGregor – and the concept of the three-act ballet – to a brave and entirely exhilarating new place’.

Each of the three acts springs from one of Woolf’s landmark novels: Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves – but these inspirations are also enmeshed with elements from her letters, essays and diaries. Woolf Works expresses the heart of an artistic life driven to discover a freer, uniquely modern realism, and brings to life Woolf’s world of ‘granite and rainbow’, where human beings are at once both physical body and uncontained essence. Woolf Works was McGregor’s first full-length work for The Royal Ballet, and saw him reunited with regular collaborator Max Richter, who provides a commissioned score incorporating electronic and orchestral music.  This performance by the ballet’s original cast will feature the legendary and luminous Alessandra Ferri in the central role; and the transmission will be rescreened on Monday 13th February as part of the ROH Encore strand.

Date:  Wednesday 8th February, 7.15pm; Monday 13th February 12.oo midday

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

Tickets:  £22 adult, £10 child, £17.50 student or retired, £64 family ticket 8th February; £17.50 adult, £10 child, £15 student or retired, £55 family ticket 13th February

Book online here

The Royal Ballet’s Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett has become known for ballets that marry highly expressive movement, sophisticated musical response and dark psychological depth – in such works for The Royal Ballet as Asphodel Meadows, Sweet Violets and The Age of Anxiety on the main stage, and Hansel and Gretel in the Linbury Studio Theatre. Now he creates his first full-length work for the main stage with Frankenstein, a period adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Gothic tale of morality and our craving for love, companionship and understanding.  Wednesday 18th May’s performance will be relayed live from the Royal Opera House to national and international cinemas, including Phoenix Picturehouse and Odeon Magdalen Street in Oxford.

For this new work Scarlett has assembled a number of regular collaborators. American composer Lowell Liebermann, whose First Piano Concerto provides the music for Scarlett’s Viscera, composes a new score.  John Macfarlane (Asphodel Meadows, Sweet Violets, The Age of Anxiety) creates the designs, while David Finn provides lighting design.  Dancers include Federico Bonelli, Laura Morera and Steven McRae.

Performance:  Wednesday 18th May 2016, 7.15pm

Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AE:   Tickets £8-£20  bookable online here

Odeon, Magdalen St, Oxford OX1 3AE:  Tickets £12.50-£15  bookable online here

Find out more about the production here

 

 

Three of the four pieces shown by Phoenix Dance Theatre at the Linbury last week were new (or nearly new) works by Christopher Bruce, Ivgi & Greben and Darshan Singh Bhuller. This year has seen our dance companies commemorate the Great War and Bruce’s Shift (2006) seemed subtly to echo this theme. It opens with three women walking purposefully onto the stage, their hair tied up in headscarf turbans that immediately conjured up images of factory war work. Sometimes they and their male counterparts seemed to operate machines, at others, it was as if they themselves were the machines as they repeated movement sequences in canon. John B Read’s lighting design projected a shadow pattern of small rectangular panes onto the floor of the stage, as though light entered through a high window, adding a further geometrical dimension to the choreography. (more…)

It was a great treat to see four Frederick Ashton ballets (Scènes de ballet / Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan / Symphonic Variations / A Month in the Country) in one programme earlier this week at Covent Garden, and despite some imperfections of performance the sheer quality of choreography carried the evening.

The opening piece, Scènes de ballet, was a disappointment not so much because there were mistakes and some of the cast were clearly not on form, but because evidence of the company’s understanding of Ashton’s style appeared only intermittently. The choreography of this ballet is so subtle, so original and so exquisitely balanced that it cannot fail to delight, but it should have been better danced. (more…)

When Kevin O’Hare stepped in front of the curtain, I expected bad news, and it was:  Natalia Osipova had mild concussion following “a collision of heads” during the afternoon performance;  Thiago Soares was off too, and  so was Tetractys – the art of fugue.  Cue for groans from the audience, followed by a round of applause from some of the more expensive seats when we were promised a refund of a third of the ticket price, and told that the bars would stay open for longer than usual.  And so the triple bill became a double bill, of Rhapsody and Gloria.  Nevertheless, this was an opportunity for the Royal Ballet to showcase the work of two of the company’s most important directors and to demonstrate an understanding of two very different, yet very English, choreographic styles. (more…)

In life, Sarah Lamb’s Giselle is swift and airborne with a restrained diffidence; in death, those qualities transform her into a ghostly and ethereal apparition.  As a Wili, her cool manner enhances the otherworldly feel of her dancing, although in the first act last night she did not completely convince me that she was a peasant girl driven mad by the shock of betrayal and I wasn’t quite sure that she had actually killed herself, rather than dying of a broken heart. (more…)