The Royal Ballet’s The Winter’s Tale by Christopher Wheeldon and Joby Talbot

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The Winter’s Tale is another superb collaboration between Christopher Wheeldon and Joby Talbot in a co-production by the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada. It is a full-length ballet based on the Shakespeare play.

The sudden fixation by Leontes that Hermione has been unfaithful is the psychological trauma around which the drama unfolds. It is this devastating loss of judgement and reason that Wheeldon must convey because the whole of the story follows from it. And Wheeldon certainly delivers. It is an extraordinary psychological torment that besets Leontes as he descends through anguish, to a state of abject despair and loss of mental and physical strength. The play is brilliantly translated into ballet. We noticed how Leontes’ first soliloquy is dramatically converted into the action of the two kings placing their hands on Hermione’s belly to feel the unborn baby with the ensuing emotional turmoil of jealousy initially expressed in the terrible contorted movements of Leontes’ hands. No temporary episode of madness could have a worse outcome. Leontes inflicts a terrible punishment on Hermione and their new child and the effect of this destroys his small son Mamillius.

In Act Two the youthful antics of the rural folk are all as they should be and within this there is fabulous dancing from James Hay as Florizel and Francesca Hayward as Perdita. Look out in particular for Marcelino Sambé as Brother Clown who recalls another dancer of the Royal Ballet now in his 70s – Wayne Sleep.

The final act of the ballet is a tour-de-force. Wheeldon delivers a pas-de-deux whose tragic dimension overwhelms the awe and amazement that surround the reunion of the couple after their 16-year separation. The emotional spectrum Wheeldon employs to communicate the immensely challenging facts of the reunion is subtle, raw and painful to watch. There is wonderful dancing here from Thiago Soares and Claire Calvert.

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The design of this ballet is beautiful with dark foreboding clouds at the beginning, a wonderful tree for Bohemia, and a sombre setting for the final scene with exquisite dove pinks and greys for costumes. Bob Crawley has done a fantastic job as he did for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Joby Talbot’s score admirably meets the emotional requirements of the story with on-stage musicians playing non-orchestral instruments for the act in Bohemia and beautiful orchestral writing for Hermione and Leontes in the other acts. The final word must be about Christina Arestis who takes the part of Paulina the character who spirits Hermione away to her strange exile and at the same time is the person to whom Leontes returns for comfort. Touches of Martha Graham in relation to hands struck me. The hand is so much the doer and invests a curious power in the part of Paulina. She is a powerful and effective facilitator but in no sense is this a masculine portrayal. This is a brilliant piece of choreography. She has a much more subtle and sensitive power and it is she who enables Leontes to reunite with Hermione and their newly returned daughter, Perdita.

Christopher Wheeldon is the true successor to Kenneth MacMillan.

Highlight of the show – the synthesis of Shakespeare, ballet, music and design to produce a tremendous new work of art.

4/5 WIGS

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Tickets Under £15

This week we have a wide range of offerings, including, dance, musical theatre, mime, opera, ballet and theatre all for under £15 in some of the finest venues London has to offer…

Current

Golgota – Bartabas & Andrés Marín – Sadler’s Wells – 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21 March – £12 tickets available.

“Four horses perform live on stage uniting equestrian theatre with art, music and dance.”

Upcoming

The Importance of Being Earnest by Gerald Barry – The Royal Opera at the Barbican – 29 March – 3 April – £10 tickets available.

“This operatic refashioning of Oscar Wilde’s most famous play is wildly inventive, exuberant and anarchic.”

Scenes from 68* Years – Sandpit Arts – Arcola Theatre – 6 – 9 April – £12, 10 – 30 April – £14 Concessions.

“A picnic interrupted by soldiers. Never-ending queues. Sunbathing in the shadow of a tank. How do people manage when every day is the same?”

Coming Soon

The Winter’s Tale – Royal Ballet – Royal Opera House – 12, 13, 16, 18, 20, 21, 27, 28, 30 April, 21 May, 1, 7, 10 June – £5 and £6 tickets available.

“Christopher Wheeldon’s three-act ballet adaptation of Shakespeare’s tale of love, loss and reconciliation with music by Joby Talbot.”

Lucky Stiff – MKEC Productions – Drayton Arms – 26 – 27 April – £7, 28 – 14 May – early bird tickets at £10 and concessions at £12.

“Something funny’s going on…With a mysterious murder, mistaken identities, and a corpse in a wheelchair, Lucky Stiff will leave you dying of laughter.”

Blind Man’s Song – Theatre Re – Pleasance Islington – 27 April – 15 May – £15 (£13 Concessions).

“Inspired by interviews with blind and visually-impaired people, Blind Man’s Song is a tale about one man’s rage against his world of darkness.”

Sleeping Beauty by Matthew Bourne at Sadler’s Wells

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Matthew Bourne’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is a masterpiece. It’s a stunning reworking of the fairy tale with new story elements. Its beautiful sets and costumes compliment ballet and dance of the highest quality. The Gothic tone and humour round this up as the perfect spectacle for all.

Set in 1890, we are introduced to the young princess as a baby as she is visited by the ‘vampire’ fairies who all give her a baptism gift. She is visited by Carabosse as well who comes to put a curse on her. In this version, Carabosse is replaced by her son after the initial opening. When the princess is older she pricks her finger on a rose and falls asleep under the curse made by Carabosse. The young man of her affections is bitten by a vampire fairy in order to have the chance to rescue her from her slumber 100 years later.

This reworking of the story adds so many new layers to the story. Carabosse’s son waits for the princess to wake up so he can have her for himself. The shift in time also allows for a change in dance styles which become more contemporary in the second act.

This was a triumph – a fantastic example of what ballet should be. Full of rich storytelling, sets and costumes, that can appeal to anyone. Matthew Bourne is very well known for his tremendous work with his New/Adventures company bringing ballet with strong narratives and contemporary interpretations to a wider audience. Here he has achieved this again spectacularly.

Highlight of the show – Our first meeting with the fairies with each of them having their own unique dance. Set-wise, Carabosse’s son’s lair, beautifully lit with the hanging neon lights and red glow – some kind of mix between church and sex club, the perfect vampire hangout. And a of course a mention for the extremely well manipulated puppet baby.

WIGS 5/5

Christmas picks from the Ginger Wig

With December now in full swing, the Ginger Wig and Strolling man pick out their top picks of things to see over the Christmas period!

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‘The Wasp’ – this thriller by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm has transferred to Trafalgar Studios after a sold out run at the Hampstead. December 8th – January 16th at Trafalgar Studios – £15 – £30

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‘Sleeping Beauty – Matthew Bourne’s gothic imagining of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet is back on at Sadler’s Wells. December 1st –  January 24th Tickets  £12 – £65

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‘The Lorax’ – Dr. Seuss’ personal favourite, an effective and entertaining environmental tale is reimagined at the Old Vic, with music from Noah and the Whale – there are still £10 preview tickets available! December 4th – January 16th Tickets  £10 – £60

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‘The Dazzle’ – this play by American playwright, Richard Greenberg, gets its London premiere starring Andrew Scott at a new space in Central St. Martins School of Art. December 10th – January 30th Tickets  £10 – £35

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‘I Want My Hat Back’ is another children’s book-inspired christmas show. Based on Jon Klassen’s story this is another sure bet for the kids. December 16th – January 2nd at the National Theatre.  Tickets £10 – £15