When a Pirouette becomes a Russian Revolution

Russian State Ballet and Opera House of Komi

What a coup for Theatre Severn to host the Russian State Ballet for two days to present two different shows. Friday night we saw Swan Lake flutter its dainties on the boards of the main theatre. Sadly I couldn’t be there as I was misspending my time watching The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra in the Walker Theatre, from this critic - enough said. Fortunately tonight I caught the breathtakingly beautiful production of the Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping beauty is one of those stories you think you know as well as the others, the ones like Cinderella and Snow White; in truth I found I didn’t know the story at all well. However with the wonderful dancers of the Russian State Ballet and the classic score from Tchaikovsky, it didn’t matter. The show told the story. Now of course every show should do that but it took a stage full of highly disciplined and wonderfully trained Russian dancers to tell the story without a single word being spoken. Just with gesture, movement and expression the dancers transfixed their audience and took them on a journey through the dark side of European folklore. However, worry not, the story is merely an allegory for that favourite message, Good should and always will triumph over Evil.

For a touring theatre company the sheer scale of their operation is awe inspiring. The need to transport not only the lavish backdrops but costumes, ballet shoes, a whole host of staff from dancers, understudies, choreographers, dressers, wardrobe personnel, tour managers, producers, the list is endless and it boils down to a hundred minutes or so of actual show time. But thank goodness they overcome such difficulties to bring their show to the UK and treat us to some top drawer performances.

In these fairy stories presentation or design is essential. Aesthetics go a long way to creating the mes-en-scene. Of all the designers my Golden Globe would go to the costume creators. Favouring such soft pastel colours for the tutus superbly illuminated the beauty and delicate feminine poise of the girls. There was something awe inspiringly stunning about this cast and I think a lot of that came from wardrobe.

One aspect of performance that one isn’t always aware of is how much the dance steps have been chopped or changed to deal with the variety of stage sizes. The speed of some of their turns as they traversed the stage from upstage left to downstage right without either hitting their colleagues or waltzing through the scenery is really impressive. You would have thought they had rehearsed for weeks in that very space. Amazingly they only got in yesterday morning. So intense for the dancers, but the integrity of the show and the performance stays intact.

It has got to be so difficult to perform such classic, famous steps, named and known and get them constantly right. I believe they did and I also believe if they hadn’t, a large number of the more discerning ballet attendees would be right on it, ripping them apart for the simplest of errors. These dancers carry a huge weight of responsibility on their shoulders. They say to the audience, “This is what we do; it might be a famous dance, famous score and might have been danced by the greats. But we are great too, check us out.”  I applaud them. It is also worth pointing out no huge errors were made in their interpretation and it was a visual delight.  One wonders, however, if the floor was a little slippery for them as three slipped steps could be counted. Very brief slips and something all of these dancers would be way above being normally culpable for. It must have been the floor. However no blood was spilt and only I noticed as it’s what I do.

From spasmodic jerking and gesticulating at the staff disco to these classic pieces and all the panoply of options between the two; dance is a funny creature. It’s something we all feel we should have a go at. Some are good - some not so. But one thing all the mediums of dance have in common is the desire to use the body to get a message across. Dance seems an all encompassing house. Always allowing new genres or crazes whilst maintaining the old classics, dance is an explosion of colour and meaning and joy, that somehow, in covert or overt ways, sucks us in to its world. See these guys for proof of that.

Theatre Severn’s next Russian treat will be in February of next year. Coming from the Grand Opera House of Belarus, they will be bringing Puccini’s, Madame Butterfly and a thirty piece orchestra. To hear the music played live will be a fantastic experience. Book early.

This is a four star review.
 

Section:

Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

Read More from Owen Lewis