Category Archives: ballet

Michael Clark Company (Barbican Centre)

Michael Clark used to be the enfant terrible of modern dance, whether dancing with The Fall in trousers with the seat missing, cavorting around with Leigh Bowery, or producing, now and again, really superior pieces of work such as ‘O’, ‘Mmm’, and fun pieces such as ‘Because We Must’.

clarkbarbican

Now, at 54 years of age, his company returns to the Barbican with a new show called to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll … song.    These days Clark is much more mainstream, settled with a partner who is as much part of the establishment as he is (Stefan Kalmar, who runs the ICA), and with this show, he offers a sad but powerful goodbye to David Bowie – even appearing briefly himself (knowingly, ending prone on the floor) during a routine set to ‘Blackstar’, a fun piece with Patti Smith music, and a fusion of sound and movement to the music of Erik Satie.

It’s good to see him back and at the top of his artistic powers, creating something which is still sexy, still punchy, still just a little bit subversive.  Although age and injury has stopped him dancing into his later years, he still has a stage presence which draws the eye, and in his company he has a number of performers we can watch for the future, especially Harry Alexander, tall, lithe and graceful.


Jane Eyre (Northern Ballet at Richmond Theatre)

I have been following Northern Ballet since the 1980s, especially through the years in which Christopher Gable, and then David Nixon, have been at the helm, and through the change from Northern Ballet Theatre rebranded as Northern Ballet.  It still has the dramatic focus very much at its heart, but with the ballet on an equal level, too.

Back in 2002 I saw NBT’s production of Wuthering Heights, with Charlotte Talbot as Cathy and the late Jonathan Olliver as Heathcliff.  It had all the power and the passion of the source Brontë novel.  Will Charlotte’s classic novel fare as well as her sister Emily’s?

The ballet of Jane Eyre (sumptuously scored by Philip Feeney) starts with Jane being discovered on the moors by the Rev St John Rivers, and taken to recover with his sisters.  She starts to recount her story, and we go back to the graveside where the young Jane passes to the care of her cruel Aunt Reed and her bullying cousins, their dancing portraying her anger and their indifference.

Passing through Lowood Institution and on to Thornfield, the adult Jane (Dreda Blow) is a fiery, passionate creature and her dancing focuses on both the drama and the technical needs of the story.  Rochester (Javier Torres) was initially not working for me, but his scenes with Jane from the fire scene onwards were well judged, tender, and vibrantly portrayed, making me think of both Macmillan’s choreography of Romeo and Juliet and the original NBT production of Dracula, which also used Feeney’s music.

Bertha Mason’s wild harpy with fire red hair, the twittery and fussy Mrs Fairfax, and the graceful Adele, were all highlights in a production which may have stumped those unfamiliar with the novel (and this version excised Mason, instead having Grace Poole appearing injured at the ball), while the additional of a male chorus of ‘D men’ didn’t quite work – Jane is a character who seeks and thrives in solitude, and she is never alone on stage – but this production is an emotional powerhouse with some excellent staging choices (especially around the scenes of fire) and some wonderful pieces of choreography from Cathy Marston.


Shakespeare 400: Film and TV

There have been many, many screen versions of Shakespeare’s plays – please follow the links below to my lists on Letterboxd to find a range of straight adaptations and versions inspired by the Bard’s work.

Such a rich store of films, television and recordings from the RSC, the National Theatre, the Globe, and Digital Theatre exist to prove the Bard remains relevant 400 years after his passing.

tragedieshamlet

Shakespeare – The Tragedies (http://boxd.it/8yDy), covering 11 of the 37 plays: Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida.

Five to try:

  • Antony and Cleopatra (1974, dir Jon Scoffield, with Richard Johnson and Janet Suzman).  This will be released by Network Distributing later this year.
  • The Bad Sleep Well (1960, dir Akira Kurosawa).  A Japanese loose version of Hamlet.
  • Macbeth on the Estate (1997, dir Penny Woolcock, with James Frain).
  • Othello (1990, dir Trevor Nunn, with Willard White and Ian McKellen).
  • Romeo and Juliet (1984, from the Royal Ballet, with Wayne Eagling and Alessandra Ferri, to Kenneth Macmillan’s choreography).

comediescomedydench

Shakespeare – The Comedies (http://boxd.it/8yDS), covering 12 of the 37 plays: All’s Well That Ends Well, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Measure for Measure, Merry Wives of Windsor, The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing.

Five to try:

  • The Comedy of Errors (1976, dir Trevor Nunn, with Judi Dench, with music by Guy Woolfenden).
  • McLintock! (1963, dir Andrew V. McLaglen, with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara).  A Western inspired by The Taming of the Shrew.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935, dir Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle).  A Hollywood fantasy with Mickey Rooney as Puck.
  • Much Ado About Nothing (2012, dir Joss Whedon).
  • The Merchant of Venice (1972, dir Cedric Messina, with Frank Finlay as Shylock and Maggie Smith as Portia).

historiesrichardshaw

Shakespeare – The Histories (http://boxd.it/8yEc), covering 10 of the 37 plays: Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Henry V, Henry VI Part 1, Henry VI Part 2, Henry VI Part 3, Richard III, Henry VIII, King John.

Five to try:

  • Richard III (1995, dir Richard Loncraine, with Ian McKellen).  Set in the Nazi era with a modern feel.
  • Henry V (1944, dir by and starring Laurence Olivier).  A stirring version made during the Second World War.
  • King John (1984, dir David Giles, with Leonard Rossiter, for the BBC Shakespeare).
  • Henry VIII (2010, dir Mark Rosenblatt, for Globe on Screen, with Dominic Rowan).
  • Richard II (1978, dir David Giles, with Derek Jacobi, for the BBC Shakespeare).

romancestempestglobe

Shakespeare – The Romances (http://boxd.it/8yEw), covering 4 of the 37 plays: Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest.

Five to try:

  • Prospero’s Books (1991, dir Peter Greenaway, with John Gielgud).  Inspired by The Tempest.
  • The Winter’s Tale (1999, dir Gregory Doran, with Antony Sher, for the RSC).
  • The Tempest (1908, dir Percy Stow).
  • Cymbeline (2013, dir Michael Almereyda, with Ethan Hawke).  With an urban gang setting.
  • The Winter’s Tale (1910, dir Thanhouser).

 

 


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