Posts Tagged ‘Will Tuckett’

Review – Will Tucket’s “Pleasure’s Progress” – Linbury Studio

September 22, 2010

I went to Pinocchio, I went to Fairies, and yet still I came marching back to the Linbury for Will Tuckett’s latest, “Pleasure’s Progress.” I was tempted by 1) new work 2) salacious topic 3) short running time. At worst, by the time I hated it, it would all be over, and then I’d probably have something raunchy to distract me, right?

Gah I was wrong in so many ways. First, the running time (90 minutes), was longer than I thought, though it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d been enjoying myself rather than staring longingly at the people who snuck out early; instead, I was wondering just how long they could drag this damned thing out. Second, rather than being raunchy, this was just crude, with a masturbating monkey, people constantly feeling themselves up, puerile jokes a la people running together sales pitches for candy and almonds so they could say,”Lick!” “My nuts!” (and “finger” “my muff,” don’t ask), and so on. There was an extended story about a whore, starting from her arrival in London to her death of pox at 23, but it failed to be juicy … just sad. (A series of extended jokes about an impotent man did at least hit the comedy note.)

And oh the choreography. Tuckett’s movement, again and again, just looked like an accident, like the people on stage were about to bump into each other and tried to make it look good. Every now and again I noticed some fairly complex grouping that showed the maker’s hand; but none of these things felt like dance. I do not understand why the Royal Opera House keeps giving this man choreographic commissions; it seems driven out of a sense of pity, or perhaps a need to fulfill contractual obligations.

Not all was a loss. The costuming was good, the woman playing the nymphomaniac had a truly pleasant voice I was sad to have miked, and I had a chuckle or two during the song “You’ve Got the Clap.” The song “Drunk for a Penny” (about gin, of course) and the scene surrounding it was genuinely touching; but the rest of the evening I would have chucked as carelessly as the pissed bawd did her baby. All of the singing, costumes, and references to high culture (Hogarth) in the world couldn’t give this show coherence; it is a complete failure and I sincerely hope that after its short run it never again sees the light of day.

(This review is for a preview performance that took place on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010. It runs at the Linbury until Sunday, September 26th. Per the web site it’s almost a year until this show is actually formally opened; best of luck fixing it in the meantime.)

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Review – La Fille Mal Gardee – Royal Ballet

March 28, 2010

While I love modern ballets, there is definitely a soft spot in my heart for the classics, especially the big standards like Giselle and Swan Lake. Who couldn’t love their great stories and wonderful dancing? It was with them in my mind that I approached La Fille Mal Gardee, which, as it turns out, is a classic, one that even precedes Petipa, going all the way back to 1789 and substantially reworked by Frederic Ashton (though many others had their hands on it in the intervening years). I was a little terrified by some reviews I’d read, that made it all just to be a bit too cute, and I was cringing just a bit as I sat down at the Royal Opera House on Friday night. Was it going to celebrate the more revolting aspects of ballet, the tutu-loving tweeness that makes me think of little girls dancing in their bedroom at the expense of producing good dance? Was I going to run screaming into the night?

It turns out I need not have worried. While there may have been a bit too much wuv in the just slightly-starcrossed lovers Colas (Johnathan Kobborg) and Lise (Alina Cojocaru), Ashton managed to stay just this side of treacle and delivered a really good evening’s entertainment. The story is clear-cut and required almost no mime-reading skills to interpret; Colas wants to marry Lise, but her mother has engaged her to Alain, the son of the local rich man and a clear candidate for village idiot. We of course get to laugh at gangly Maman (Will Tuckett) and her hopeless attempts to keep Colas and Lise apart (which at one point leads to a clog dance, TOO funny), and the affianced’s ridiculous attempts to make a good impression on Lise are also the source of humor. But there’s only one question to be asked in all this: will Colas and Lise get together? Well, as this is a comedy (and I can’t remember seeing any other comic story ballet besides Coppeliaa so let me tell you it was welcomed), there was only one way it could end; happily ever after.

There are probably three things that come to mind when discussing Fille: there is the live pony (pulling a cart, cue little girls squeeing); there are chickens dancing on stage (several times, hysterical and much less nauseating than in the Beatrix Potter ballet); and ribbon dances. When I read in the notes that XX was going to leave a love-knot tied for Colas on the stage, I had no idea that it was leading into a major dance theme for this show, and there were ribbons everywhere, really, almost all due to Ashton. I adored the way Alina and Kobborg played with the ribbons; they tied each other up, tangled them behind each other’s heads to force kisses, used it to spin Alina like a top, harnessed Kobborg like a pony – it really just went on and on. But I found the trope inventive and fun. Maybe it’s been done elsewhere, but it was so elaborate and perfectly executed that I really enjoyed it. In fact, it felt genre-setting, like the flower garden sequence in Le Corsaire, and yet unburdened by stiffness. Then the theme carried on in the second act, in which the village girls made pretty designs in the background while Colas and Lise danced away – it was all just really yummy and top-of-form choreography that could have really fallen limp if designed less confidently or danced with less skill.

In the end, I’d describe La Fille as a raspberry meringue – pink and fluffy and not really much of substance but still a treat. Like Proust says, pink does always taste better than other flavors, and it suited La Fille to a T – lighthearted, fun, and full of joyous dancing – the perfect antidote for a blustery spring day. Catch it while you can!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, March 26th, 2010. It continues through April 28th. For more reviews, please see the Ballet.co.uk Royal Ballet listings. I bow to the superiority of Clement Crisp’s review, though. The man is god.)

Review – Will Tuckett’s “Faeries” – Royal Opera House, Clore Studio

July 14, 2008

After trying for weeks to find a time when my only friend with a child could accompany me (with her daughter) to see Will Tuckett’s “Faeries”, I was delighted when I got a phone call offering me a pair of free tickets with no strings attached (other than that I not post my review until today). A lot of people wouldn’t perhaps just be wandering around central London with nothing to do an hour before curtain time, but there I was, and I was completely willing to drop everything and run over to the Royal Opera House to see a show … for free! (How did my friend know that I’d be likely to do that? I must have a reputation …)

I have to interrupt the rest of the review with the reason why getting this call meant so much to me. I had known about this show for four months and had been trying to buy tickets for it when they went on sale but was unable to come up with a day that worked … because the ROH required each party have a child in attendance and in all of London I am only aquainted with one child, who would have to be brought up from Worcester Park in order to allow me to attend the show. What is up with the ROH saying you need to have a child with you to attend? Are they worried that the show will attract pedophiles, or is this just a blatant attempt at discriminating against the childless? As a woman who does not have any children nor, indeed, any relatives in the entire country, I found this policy onerous and incredibly unfair to me, a childless person. It’s bad enough that I can’t sit down and have my lunch in Coram Fields, which is only a block away, but to be forbidden from attending an art event because I can’t access a child? In 10 years of attending puppet and children’s theater this has never been an issue before. If I want to attend, I should be allowed to attend, understanding that there will be many children in the audience (and frankly they were better behaved than MANY audiences I’ve been stuck in the middle of, especially at the ballet. Must we talk during the overture?). Otherwise, if they want to be sure a certain number or percentage of children attend, they should just reserve seats for them rather than forbidden adults, flat out, from attending without children.

Walking into the show I had little idea of what to expect. I was thinking: the guy who designed the really cool looking Wind in the Willows ballet! Fairies! The … er … guy who choreographed the Pinocchio ballet I didn’t care for so much … well, maybe I should forget about that bit. At any rate, I was pretty excited about seeing a brand new ballet, as I always am.

However, it had never occurred to me what the plot might actually be about. In this case, it was sort of a Railway Children story, about two London kids sent to the countryside during the war. The girl gets split up from her brother and winds up running around in the woods and fields … and of course meets fairies. She makes friends with one, gets caught by another, and eventually gets caught up in needing to defeat an evil fairy “who wants to steal our freedom” (or something like that).

Walking into the hall, the atmosphere was good … there were period-dressed “Station Agents” handing out identification tags to the kids, and on stage was a fairly large puppet playing an old woman telling the kids where to sit and hurrying them along (a nice way to establish the puppets as “people” early in the performance). We took a seat near the very back of the stage so we wouldn’t have to get shoved off to the side, as everyone that sat down in the middle was asked to move to the edge of the risers – a bit of a punishment for people who came in on time!

Though the human cast initially seemed to be around ten people, I think there were only 2 actual speaking human roles, and after Our Heroine ran off, it was really just her and a phalanx of people operating the puppets. Unlike bunraku (or even Avenue Q), the people manipulating the puppets were all dressed in period clothing, which distracted a bit from the action. I thought that the woman with a red and white band on her head was going to turn out to be a fairy queen, but eventually it seemed that she was, really, just a woman wearing a scarf knotted on her head as if she were cleaning the house. I did like the fact that the people manipulating the Evil Fairy were dressed as soldiers, but otherwise the clothing didn’t add to the narrative. I don’t think it put the kids off, though, so maybe I’m just too picky.

The puppets were, in my mind, the best thing about this show. They came in a variety of sizes and took full advantage of their ability to be free of the normal laws of gravity and, er, bodily coherence, that human actors are limited by. This, of course, made it easy for the fairies to fly (and levitate), but they could also just stand sideways, or have their heads and tails come off and go on their own adventures. I also loved the detailing of the smallest puppets, all little fairies. I wanted to just pop them in my pocket and take them home with me. (Nice work to whoever designed these – brilliant!) And they were actually handled as characters, with their own voices, movement styles, and emotions – important aspects in making an object take on life and make it possible to focus on the face of the puppet instead of the person who was speaking for it.

The dance, however, wasn’t particularly interesting, and I wonder if the kids liked it or even cared. The scene where Our Heroine was dancing with her fairy friend was good, but the parts where, perhaps, emotion was being expressed were … I don’t know, meaningless. To me, they didn’t add to the narrative and just weren’t interesting to watch – they just seemed obligatory. While I went to see the dance, because that is what I love, and I enjoyed the show, if I had been expecting to enjoy it because of the dance I would have considered this show a complete failure. However, I’m open to enjoying any theatrical experience on its own merits, and as I enjoyed the other aspects of the show quite a bit, I can’t say it was a bad show because the dance was bad/boring/unimpressive.

Note that the evil fairy was actually scary enough that he was making the kids in the audience cry. I’m curious if they were going to try to lighten him up or just roll with it. For really little kids, he could easily be the incarnation of bogeyman nightmares.

So, overall this wasn’t a bad show, but the degree of excitement I had about going to see it wasn’t really matched by what was presented on stage. That said, the children in the audience were really caught up in what was going on and didn’t complain or barely make a squeak for the entire 75 minutes, so clearly something is working well. If you’re taking a kid to this, they will probably enjoy themselves, but if you were feeling sad because the ROH didn’t want your childless presence at this show, cry no tears – there will be other shows you will probably enjoy more. Me, I’m going to have to question whether or not I want to see Will Tuckett’s shows anymore – this makes the second one I’ve seen that left me flat, and good puppetry just isn’t enough to console me for indifferent dance. I’d rather just see a straight puppet show and keep my expectations set appropriately. Speaking of which, the Metro has £10 off top priced tickets to see Monkey: Journey to the West (the opera!), though it’s only good on matinees for Thrusday July 24 (2:30 PM) and Friday July 25 (4 PM). I don’t have £65 to lay out on theater seats for any show, but if you do, book through the ROH website (www.roh.org.uk/monkeyjourney). Hopefully Monkey will be a show where my expectations are finally met!