Archive for January, 2011

Two for one tickets for American Ballet Theatre at Sadlers Wells 2011

January 26, 2011

Well, after staring down the 70 pound tickets for the last two months, Sadler’s Wells has finally done the reasonable thing and cut a deal on top-priced tickets, which are now available at two for a total of seventy quid. Reasonably enough this is only possible on the shows that haven’t sold so well, so we’re looking at Thursday February 3rd, Friday the 4th, the Saturday the 5th matinee and both performances on Sunday the 6th. This allows you to see both rep one and rep two, so … well, if you’ve been hesitating, now’s the time to dive in. Hey, you could even catch both versions of program 2 (as the Saturday matinee has the pas de deux from the Nutcracker if I’m not mistaken). Their site is broken as I write but details on which is on when can be found here.

To get this deal, call 0844 412 4300 and quote “celebrate the city” or go online and use the promo code pcdcelebrate when prompted.


Review – Love Story – Duchess Theatre

January 26, 2011

Tonight courtesy of a local publicist I was treated to Love Story at the Duchess Theater. I have to say, I wasn’t really raging to see a play about a love affair terminated by cancer in the middle of the January doldrums, despite a quite positive review by the West End Whingers. Salad Days (“the musical about the magical piano that makes people dance and sing!”) was much more my speed. Still, I have a devotion to the new in theater – I want to see what’s being created and am an enthusiast for moving the art forward by building the canon. And a new musical is actually a rare thing – you don’t get many in a year (and sometimes none, it seems) – so you want to go out and see it while it’s fresh and alive and see if you’ve got yourself something with legs. Or, if you’re morbid, the next Carrie: the Musical.

Love Story seems like a professional job, although I found the trio of women singing in the opening number (“About a Girl?”) to have thin voices and an occasional wobble. But I loved the orchestration – a grand piano and string septet (including guitar) – and having the musicians onstage at all time did a nice job both of making the show look and sound good AND emphasize the musical background that Jenny Cavilleri (Emma Williams) is aiming for when she decides to give it all up and help support her freshly-minted husband Oliver (the impossibly tall Michael Xavier) get through law school.

The key drama in this story – the first half, anyway – is how a poor college student (I can’t imagine anyone from Radcliffe being anything other than born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but what do I know) manages to fall in love with and become the object of affection of a rich “preppy bastard.” She starts off with a chip on her shoulder, he is impossibly arrogant, but somehow her come-on line of “I like your body” overcomes their mutual rudeness and aversion and leads to post-hockey passion.

Oliver is really immature, selfish, and disagreeable, and I have to say, I can’t see just what it is that makes Jenny pursue him. She really seems to be on to something when she accuses Oliver of just going for her to alienate his WASP parents – but might she actually be going for him to get at his money? In a scene in which she sings about all of the pasta she’s cooking for him as he goes through law school, it’s clear that she’s in it thick or thin, but I find it impossible to understand her attraction to him. It’s the biggest hole in the plot and seriously undermines the tragedy of this show. Which, as you are told in the opening scene, is that Jenny will die at twenty five, leaving Oliver behind to sort out his issues with his father and probably marry someone who’s going to make his law career more successful.

While I liked how briskly this show moved along (1:45, no interval and not enough time to get the “rebelling from Oliver III” plotline taken care of), I wasn’t really captured by the songs and couldn’t empathize with the leads. Emma Williams was very believable in her role, though, with a nice singing voice (and piano playing skills). There were sniffs and sobs at the end and about 15 people went for a standing ovation, so I could just be a little hard hearted; clearly Love Story hit a nerve for many of the people in the audience. Me, though, I wish Jenny had gone for her piano career and left Oliver sitting on his ass; it’s just what he deserved and it would have been a much happier ending for me if she’d actually died having lived her dreams rather than sacrificing herself for someone who clearly didn’t deserve it.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011. The Olivier-nominated Love Story finishes its run at the end of February.)

Review – Salad Days – Tête à Tête at Riverside Studios

January 25, 2011

“I’m going! I’m not going! I’m going! I’m not going!”

and so I dithered the last two weeks over seeing Salad Days at the Riverside Studios. It had completely flown under my radar for the first six weeks of its run – despite it being “one of the happiest and best-loved classic musicals ever” I’d never heard of it – and somehow Ian Foster’s strong recommendation (it even made his best of the year list) flew right by. Pathetically, it took a review in the Metro in January – more than a month after it opened – to draw my attention to this show. Peering at my paper in the gloom of a cold, dark, January morning, I saw the words: “Happy! Classic!” and the kicker … “Magic piano!” with a rave review attached. I read three sentences and folded it up; clearly, this was the musical I’d been waiting for and I didn’t want to ruin the fun by reading too much about it. In fact I’d done such a good job of completely NOT hearing about it I almost missed it entirely!

Then comes the boring part – after I picked a day, I couldn’t find a date, and then I couldn’t find tickets that were in my budget (currently topping out at about £15 a show). I hemmed and hawed and finally decided to save the money but then happened to ping a theater-loving friend to ask what he was doing on a Sunday afternoon – and he was off to see Salad Days! Well, clearly, it was Kismet (tee hee), so I just gave in and forked over for full price tickets and ran off to Hammersmith with a fire under my tail (arriving with 10 minutes to spare).

As it turns out this was utterly worth my time though given the cheapish set it was pushing the limits of value-for-the-pound at £25. That aside, you could see where the money did go every time the cast sashayed on stage. My God, the dresses, I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d seen a fringe-esque show that actually got the era right! They looked very much like new build but the cut and styling were perfect and very nicely put me in a 1950s kind of mood.

This would, of course, be a light and fluffy kind of mood, with a heavy dose of Nancy Mitford in its depiction of the apparently useless upper classes. Somehow in a milieu in which freshly graduated men are admonished to “find yourself something to do” (though in no ways to work hard) while the women need to hurry up and get a rich husband, the concept of a magic piano that makes people dance and sing – in a park! – is bizarrely liberating. It should all just be too much – too stupid, too “nobody will fall for this any more” – but the whole thing was handled with a very light and richly comic touch that kept us all bubbling along in suspended disbelief rather like a room full of souffles. The comedy element about broke me during a scene in which our heroine’s mother is getting “done” at a salon and takes a phone call. She’s massaged, dried, made up, and manicured, all while carrying on the most ridiculous conversation, her voice vibrating, warbling, and modulating as she’s squeezed, stretched, and pummelled by the staff – and as a result of the clever staging and “let’s push the volume to eleven” upstaging by the supporting cast, I was in stitches. Was the point of this scene to reveal great secrets about the character, or perhaps to morally edify the audience? No, its goal was to make us laugh, and it was very successful at doing so.

Oh, the whole show is just too much the sort of thing “Man In Chair” from Drowsy Chaperone adores and exactly the kind of musical that’s utterly fallen out of style, and OH the dancing was fun (not brilliant but good to watch) and OH the songs and singing a pleasure (how have I never heard any of these tunes before?) and somehow the Deus Ex Machina they pulled out in the last scene was just camp enough to sell itself. Really, no one could possibly buy such a silly plot, but with the kind of joy Tête à Tête infused this production, it was just impossible to care about reality. I walked into Riverside Studios and spent two hours lost in musical theater land. And it was good.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday January 23rd, when Andrew Ahern nicely filled in in the role of Timothy. It continues through Sunday, February 8th, and I expect it should be selling out fairly regularly now – there were no more than ten seats left the day I went and given it’s five glasses rave by the Whingers I expect they should all be filled going forward. As a side notes, the bad puns in this review are wholly supported by the book, and if you don’t believe me, then lettuce alone.)

Review – Becky Shaw – Almeida Theater

January 19, 2011

It’s a wonder a theater can ever get me to buy a ticket for a show when I persist in such stupidities as thinking Becky Shaw, the new American play at the Almeida Theater, was in any way, shape or form related to Becky Sharp, the protagonist of Vanity Fair. But sometimes I’m just really thick headed and the beginning of the year, when my brain is full of thoughts of scuba diving on the Red Sea and the Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival, well, I’m just really not thinking “Ooh, I bet that new play with the title that sounds just like the heroine of Thackeray’s 19th century novel has absolutely nothing to do with it and is instead an insightful and yet funny play about modern America;” no, no, I’m looking for easy parallels within the tiny capacity of my brain and I just assumed it was mostly likely an update of Vanity Fair (set in America) and I was hearing it wrong. This kind of thing is an occasional problem when you fetishistically avoid any news whatsover of a new play lest you ruin the enjoyment of seeing a completely unknown script unfold in front of you; sometimes, you really just don’t know what you’re signing up for. Basically I got “funny” and “new play” and “15 quid” (thanks to a deal) and I said, “Okay, fine, Becky Whatever, bring it on!”

As it turns out this play had NOTHING to do with Becky Sharp whatsoever. Despite the potential for catastrophe, I’m so glad I went, as I got, for once, all of the joy of seeing a wonderful new play without a hint of overreaching or pretentiousness or being talked down to; it had an unusual but intriguing story (a blind date gone horribly wrong), fine acting, and a writing style that made me wonder just how so many authors have managed to go wrong when clearly, modern plays in modern settings can be done very well. There’s a prayer that Man in Chair from Drowsy Chaperone says, in short, “Oh please let it be good! And not too long,” and this was, for me and MiC, a prayer answered (though it went a bit over the 2:15 running time – by at least 20 minutes – the night I saw it).

This play works so much better than a million other flash-in-the-pan “issue” plays (hello, Earthquakes in London) because it’s really about people and how the interact with each other and, deliciously, how they lie to each other (and to themselves). Heart of the show is Max (David Wilson Barnes, imported from the off-Broadway cast), who’s got a complicated relationship with his, shall we say, childhood best friend Suzanna (Anna Madeley). He is blunt to the point of asshole with her and everyone else, but his deep love for her seems to animate nearly all of his actions … except for when he’s thinking about how to make money (this being 95% of all of his thoughts). Suzanna is a pile of aggression with major problems with her mother (Hayden Gwynne), who is, meanwhile, far more willful than her daughter but just as aggressive. The three of them are horrible and rude to each other … and very, very funny as they are, underneath it all, both extremely honest, insightful, and caring. I just couldn’t believe how much I was laughing at the three of them being terrible to each other, though: it was so fun watching East Coasters let it rip!

Sadly, neither Becky Shaw (Daisy Haggard) nor fellow Second Act arrival Andrew (Vincent Montuel) seem as well-written or as well acted. Becky starts to become more fun as you start to wonder just how much of her hysteria is put on; meanwhile, Mr Montuel seems to be struggling to make his character seem real. Admittedly, a feminist guy with a Munchhausen complex might be difficult to make sense out of, but his line delivery just seem kind of flat (unlike his pecs, phoar!, but was there really a need for him to be walking around without his shirt on?).

Becky Shaw is an awesome play that knocked me in the head with its familiar depiction of modern, everyday life. We bicker with our parents, we waste time watching bad television, we stomp around our shitty apartments yelling into our cellphones. We form connections with people that we can’t even find the words to express because to say those words out loud would deny the order and simplicity we want our lives to have. That pulse of the modern, banal and transcendent, conflicted and overwhelmed, is something I’ve seen very rarely in new plays. I want to feel the reality of how we live now on the stage, so new and now that it’s like spending an evening with your friends, so familiar that every pop-culture reference sounds like it’s something you just heard on the bus. And for me, an American abroad, to hear it in my vernacular and about my culture was a big bleeding pile of joy, blankie AND bunny slippers AND Kraft macaroni and cheese all at the same time. And it was effortless rather than cutesy or “issue of the month.” Rock on Ms Gina Gionfriddo, well written.

However, in my mind it’s really the triangle between the three people with the longest relationship that seems the most solid; but the whole train-wreck of social circumstances is just a riot to ride. And I did get really caught up in how each of the three leads got to be the way they are. To me, that’s what defines good writing; when you sit there trying to figure out what kind of childhood made a character you just saw on stage into the person they are during the course of the play, because, really, they never existed anywhere at all other than as words written on a page. And for sucking me in and making me laugh, I have to say, good job Gina and thank you Almeida for picking this show. I’ll really be looking forward to seeing her next play.

(This review is for a performance that took place on January 18th, 2011. The show continues through March 5th.)

2 for 1 offer on “When We Are Married” at Garrick Theater

January 18, 2011

The Metro is having a push for the closing days of the J.B. Priestley’s When We Are Married at the Garrick Theater with two for one tickets on Tuesday to Friday performances up to 11th February. To get this deal call 0844 412 4662 and quote “Metro Offer.” It says terms and conditions apply but doesn’t say what they are. This show got a very positive review from the West End Whingers so I’d consider the time and money worth the investment – I’ve been meaning to see it for ages but just haven’t had the right combination of time and money. Be advised the show ends 26th February 2011 so if you’re not tempted to see it by this deal you’ll want to hurry up and make your plans soon anyway or you’ll miss out.

Review – La Maledicion de Poe (The Curse of Poe) – Teatro Corsario at Southbank Center

January 16, 2011

Nobody that knows me could have been surprised that, upon reading the following tweet, my next thought was to fire up my browser and buy a ticket to this event: “Step into the dark & thrilling world of Edgar Allen Poe with Teatro Corsario’s award-winning ‘puppets of terror’ .” Edgar Allen Poe and puppets, Grand Guignol-style? Sign me up, and thank you to Southbank Center for alerting me to this show. I mean, the title “2011 International Mime Festival” really doesn’t lead you to expect puppets, right? I would have never even read the program of shows. The online description was even more tantalizing: “Teatro Corsario’s award-winning ‘puppets of terror’ have tingled spines across Europe. Not for the faint-hearted! Suitable for ages 12 and over” – with a picture of a puppet burying an axe in another. And it was only one hour long! It all sounded like a perfect Sunday afternoon for me.

It was my first time at the Purcell room, which is actually a bit of an irritating venue because of the fact the seats are not staggered, which meant I had to keep leaning to the right to see the action during the three scenes where the characters were prone in the front part of the stage. Grr. And I’m also a bit grumpy as they delayed the start of the show by about 15 minutes; not deadly but irritating.

That said, let’s get to the meat of the matter: how was the show? How were the puppets? Was it terrifying? First, to the puppetry; this was done as a sort of bunraku, only with the puppeteers dressed in black velvet with hoods and, I think, occasionally operating behind curtains. I could only rarely see them, if I was looking at some brighter object; while normally I try to see what the puppeteers are doing, in this case I felt it was better to respect their clear desires to remain wholly unseen and just watch a show in which, as it appeared, doll like creatures were moving about on stage unsupported by the human hand.

The puppets themselves were pretty cool, though they seemed …. well, somewhat bizarre. There were a few major characters – Edgar, Annabel (Annabel Lee), her mother, Edgar’s grandparents, a policeman, a drunkard, and a monkey … probably about 3 feet tall each. They weren’t the kind of puppets that made you marvel at their craftsmanship, but they were good and professional, not cheap, and each puppet had its own personality.

Of course, being a “horror” puppet show, we had a few special puppets, in this case two old people who had been sliced to death by the monkey and a woman who’d been accidentally axed by her husband. They were deliciously gruesome and perfect illustrations to the Poe stories they meant to tell (“Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Black Cat”), but they were NOT appropriate viewing for ten year olds and I think the women who hustled their kids out thirty minutes in were deeply regretting their purchases. I also loved the evil monkey, who formed a much bigger character than I remember from reading Poe; he was a force of anarchy.

The story itself, well, I’m afraid the love story of Edgar and Annabel was rather limp, and the presence of her mother not very effective. In this, I think Teatro Corsario worked too hard to take too many small stories and blend them together; while the final image of death and Annabel Lee’s grave was quite good the story itself was just not there, and the whole thread with Edgar being chased by the policeman who’s trying to blame him for his grandparents’ deaths was incoherent. Fortunately, the free program sheet explained the entire story (such as it was), which really, really helped in my attempts to impose continuity on the narrative; but I think three distinct story lines would have worked much better.

However, cramming it all into one hour is a bit of a trick, and I didn’t actually get bored at any point, so there must have been something going right. I could recognize the problems but still have a good time, and I got what I came for: scary puppet theater with bonus killer monkey. And how often can you say that, especially of a cold London January Sunday?

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday, January 16th, 2011. It continues through Wednesday January 19th.)

Review – Alice in Wonderland – Little Angel Theatre

January 11, 2011

The promise of a puppet version of Alice in Wonderland got me excited a good month before the Little Angel Theater’s production opened in November. Still, due to scheduling (and some sold-out shows), I wasn’t able to actually see it until January. I was excited to see how this classic tale could be told and enhanced through the use of puppets.

The characters – Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter – were lovingly carved and full of personality. I often think the character of a puppet theater company comes out in the creatures they make to tell their shows, and the gang for this show were expressive and beautiful. There were also some great unusual “comedy” creatures, such as a house with legs, a talking bubble/triangle thing, and the disassembled cards (each with the various parts that added together to be a human – one with a head, one with arms, one with legs), that really added to the air of surrealism and unreality that make Alice such fun.

The performance took advantage of a variety of tricks to tell the unusual aspects of the story. The cards used actual paint to recolor the Queen’s roses – a literalness that could only work when the roses in question were made of paper- but Alice herself changed sizes not just through the use of different puppets, but through a wonderful shadowplay that used the trick of getting closer or further from the light to get larger and smaller. (The puppeteer in this case took the place of the puppet, but I am willing to forgive.) There was a bit with teacups in flowers that I’m pretty sure wasn’t in the original but was lovely and very appropriate to the feel of the story. And as for a talking key – well, what could be easier? This one even sang and danced in what I found a huge improvement over any bigger budget production.

However, I feel like the production had rather too many songs – it seemed like six or seven but could have been more. The first two I enjoyed, but I started getting yawny as the other ones took up time I thought might have better been applied to narrative. I’m not sure why Little Angel keeps doing shows with songs and shows with intervals; my belief is that Alice would have been better with most of the songs cut and just a straight-through show with no break. Still, it was full of magic and a very enjoyable afternoon – a treat for adults as well as children, and probably the best adaptation of Alice I’ve ever seen. Nice job, guys!

(This review is for the 11AM performance that took place on Saturday, January 8th, 2011. The production continues through January 30th, 2011.)

Review – The Animals and Children Took to the Streets – 1927 at Battersea Arts Centre

January 6, 2011

Based on my experience watching 1927’s last outing (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), I wasn’t in too huge of a rush to get tickets for their latest show at the Battersea Arts Center – some animation, some acting, some people wearing vintage clothes, yawn – so I waited and waited and put it off long after The Animals and Children Took to the Streets was announced but was finally enticed by a friend of mine saying she wanted to go, and, gosh, there the BAC is just up the road from her and she’s leaving soon and I want to spend time with her and … oops, the show sold out.

This leads us to last night, when R and I were sitting in the lobby of the Battersea Arts Center about an hour and a half before showtime. Any chance of getting returns under normal circumstances was rather hamstrung by the complete brokenness of the BAC phones during the day, so being first on the list was our only hope. I was hungry – the onsite caf was only serving nachos and mac ‘n cheese – and the third member of our party, Miss Booglysticks, had finally gone from waffling (“Do I really want to go just on a hope”) to taking a cab (ouch!). BUT as I sat in a nearby kebab shop waiting for my lamb cubes to cook through, good fortune struck and three seats very magically became ours (and needed to be paid for in cash rather quickly). We (and our hot drinks) were in!

Now, for a show that is both sold out and ending in four days – wait, three – I wouldn’t normally bother doing a write-up, but because I’d gone to the earlier show, I actually really want to talk about how things have changed between this production and the last. In short – and I find this a bit difficult to say given my reputation as a surly curmudgeon who only goes to shows so she can complain about never getting her money’s worth – I found with this show that 1927 has lived up to the potential they showed two years ago. The quirky joy of Paul Barritt’s animation is now more seamlessly fused with the live acting – at times it seemed to be handling all of the lighting duties on stage, though I know it was added to at times – and the live actors also found themselves buried within the crazy collage of his work. The potential of animation to let you do the impossible – like have an actor have their head come off and be tossed around like a football, to create an elevator that goes up and up, to make a space an actor can run through block after block – was revelled in.

But there was more. First, this had a far more coherent through-story – a bizarre tale of a semi-fictional reality based in a tenement (the Bayou, though it kept sounding like the Bio) where the children have gone completely feral, much like the cockroaches. Second, the songs and music were both catchy and eerie – I remember thinking the music wasn’t fully formed before, but the singing, the lyrics, and the instrumentation (including a güiro played as if it were nails being filed) for Animals and Children worked together perfectly to accent the story and the characters. Finally, despite being forced to interact with the animation (i.e. slapping “flies” as they went past, lobbing an animated rock at a window), the actors made it all feel as effortless as any other cue they might have effected requiring standing or moving in coordination with another person or action on stage. This did not feel like a case of the performers serving the animation – 1927 really has the entire package operating as a whole now.

Most importantly to me, the performers created big, fun characters that were a treat to watch – strange curtain twitching ladies wearing leopard spotted house robes; a Robert Smith-like caretaker with dreams of escape; a sneaky, sleazy “lady” spiv and her pre-teen Stalinist daughter; a helpful young woman and her (animated only) daughter; ticket girls and bureaucrats and ice cream men. All of this was done by only three people? I am shocked. And, to top it off, the backgrounds for the scenes were done in a lovely Russian/Rodchenko style/homage that unified the show and cranked it up one more notch on the artistry thermometer. It was just really damned good.

All that, only £16, I got to take my hot chocolate in with me, and it all wrapped up by about 9 PM. To be honest, when I came out I was so excited I forgot to check my watch and was instead babbling on about the show. So go get in line, people, you’re going to be sorry you missed this one if you don’t have tickets – as near as I can tell from their website, the BAC show is the end of the line for the tour.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, January 5th, 2011. The final performance will be Saturday, January 8th. I’d say book now but it’s a little late!)

Review – Get Santa! – Royal Court

January 5, 2011

A new year, a new resolution to focus my reviewing on the most relevant shows, and yet here it is January and I’m reviewing a show that is basically way past its sell date. I actually had no intention of seeing Get Santa whatsoever, as it sounded like some cutesy crap I wanted to steer well away from, especially with an adult (Imogen Doel) playing a ten year old lead Holly. And, come on, Christmas is over. I don’t need my heart warmed. I need bitter. I need cold. I need withered branches far from the promise of spring.

And yet, I also need cheap, and an offer came out through the Royal Court’s Twitter account (“£5 SPECIAL OFFER 6 Jan 5pm 7 Jan 7pm, code HOLLY5 “), and that wouldn’t be enough as I won’t waste my time with bad theater … but the word on the street was … well, certainly positive enough to warrant £5. And I had nothing planned for the first week in January. And … £5.

I’m pleased to report that not only did I get my £5 worth, I’m able to say that Get Santa actually rates as the best original, non-Panto, non-Nutcracker holiday theatrical entertainment I’ve seen as years, as radically original as expectation-overturning as Elf was as a holiday movie. It also satisfied my desire for some cleansing bitter flavors in my diet, as rather than being adorable and sugary, it rather blatantly looked into the many ways Christmas really never lives up to our expectations and is frequently a source of disappointments. Holly isn’t a cute little kiddie who needs a big hug: she’s an angry little girl, a force of chaos like an Eloise, living in a world with rules of reality that run somewhere between Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss. And I have no idea how she pulled it off, but Doel actually got the energy, sulkiness, and raw intelligence of a ten year old wrapped up in a way that, as an audience member, while I was aware that at times she was mugging and being excessively silly, I was still able to buy into the age of the character she was portraying, and thus settle down into enjoying the play.

To be honest, you’re going to need a strong ability to suspend disbelief in order to be able to buy this play, as the characters are not just Holly and Santa Claus (David Sterne, deliciously burnt out), but a dog (Robert Stocks) and a talking teddy bear (this is an actual teddy bear and not a human being in a bear suit). But somehow the entire ball of weirdness, from the frightening pink wallpaper to the chic drunk grandma (Amanda Hadingue) and Santa Claus and an adult playing a ten year old and “magic” all comes together and makes sense, so much that when Santa gets into an argument with the teddy bear about whether or not gypsies can cast curses, it actually all works within the logic of the play (and of course there are forest penguins, who could possibly doubt a stuffed animal that only lives for the love of its little girl?).

I loved the warped reality rollercoaster ride that was Get Santa, and while I saw it too late for it to be one of the highlights of 2010, it was without a doubt the best Christmas play I saw this season and left a million lesser works gasping by the side of the road like a Wetherspoons roast dinner eating its heart out after a plate full of goose, stuffing, and gravy ran it over. I think it even knocked Albee’s Sylvia out of the water when it came to taking the absurd and making it work, all while keeping it just below the level that would have made it unsuitable for an eight year old (although if your kid talks during plays LEAVE THEM HOME PLEASE). And, come on, it had a bacon tree. How much better could Christmas get?

(This review is for the 7 PM performance that took place on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011. Get Santa continues through January 15th at the Royal Court.)

Preview – 2011 Diaghilev Festival – Kremlin Ballet Theater at English National Opera

January 1, 2011

UPDATE: for a really nice preview, please see Natasha Dissanayake’s interview with Nikolai Tsiskaridze on the website.

On my way into English National Ballet’s Nutcracker, I was handed a flyer for … a Diaghilev Festival? With a picture of the original costuming for “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune” on the cover? Well, color me interested! I kept it close at hand until I returned home and had chance for a closer perusal of the contents.

The impression is – well, mixed. While the ballets on offer (to be presented in April, 2011, at the Coliseum) had me salivating at a chance to see live what I have only read of before (The Blue God! Thamar! Nijinska’s Bolero!), the names associated with it are wholly unknown to me. “Russian Ballet Stars” and the “Kremlin Ballet Theater?” The St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra? What is this, a bunch of school kids working off their tuition fees by doing a performance abroad? And none of the ballet “stars” are named? That does not seem right to me.

And the ballets, well, it’s all good that “The Blue God” is a UK premiere, but do I really want to see Wayne Eagling’s choreography from the “new production that premiered at the State Kremlin Palace on 25th October 2005?” Meanwhile “Thamar” is by “Jurjius Smoriginas?” I thought it was by Michel Fokine! What is going on here? I am very curious as to how authentic this “Diaghilev” festival is really going to be.

For those who are unable to resist the call, however, I’m please to report that there are discounts available; most usefully, a multibuy giving 15% off tickets for two shows and 20% off of three shows. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to get these discounts automatically or not as there is no associated code and I’m not buying my tickets any time soon. And yes, I’m going to go; I have got to see “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune” and witness that gorgeous poster of Nijinski come to life at last.

Here’s the order of shows; see the ENO website for details (each show is linked to their site).

Program One (Tuesday and Wednesday April 12 and 13th, matinee and evening performance on the 13th): The Blue God and The Firebird
Program Two (Thursday and Friday April 14th and 15th): Thamar and Scheherazade
Program Three (Saturday and Sunday April 16th and 17th): Le Pavillon D’Armide, L’Apres-Midi D’un Faune, and Bolero.

Hmm … the ENO website shows that the stars in question are Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Ilze Liepa, Maria Alexandrova, Mikhail Lobukhin, Irma Nioradze, Ilya Kuznetsov … so should we go or not? I’m afraid this article by Arlene Croce reviewing two books about Diaghilev makes me just want to say yes to all three.