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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Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet had casting problems right from the start, when Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable famously gave way to Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. On Saturday, the cast change was due to injury, and Natalia Osipova was replaced by Sarah Lamb, partnered by Vadim Muntagirov. Lamb and Osipova seem to me to be at opposite poles, the one being a warm, passionate risk-taker, the other cool, restrained and exquisitely accurate. It cannot be easy to perform knowing that the majority of the audience originally booked to see another very different dancer. (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…)