Category Archives: Theatre

Beatlemania

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Beatlemania

Beatlemania hit Glasgow’s Buchanan Street yesterday.

The Fab Four were in town to promote the Scottish leg of the UK tour of LET IT BE, a celebration of the music of John, Paul, George and Ringo. The boys took to the stage of the Hard Rock Cafe and rattled through a crowd-pleasing set featuring some of their iconic hits.

Check the tour website for details of upcoming venues and ticket prices: http://www.letitbelondon.com/

Sleeping Beauty: a gothic romance

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The appetite for dance seems to be enjoying something of a revival among UK theatre goers, probably because of the popularity of TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance. Nevertheless, the tights and tutus image of classical ballet can be a little off-putting for some of us newbies.Ivy-clad gateway, Rouken Glen

Thank goodness, then, for choreographers with the vision and wit to re-imagine old-school ballets for a modern audience. Matthew Bourne falls into this camp and is widely credited with making ballet more accessible. Working with his dance company, New Adventures, Bourne’s re-interpretation of traditional ballet The Sleeping Beauty marks the long-awaited completion of his trilogy inspired by the work of Tchaikovsky.

New Adventures Sleeping Beauty made its London debut at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 2012 and is now out on tour. We went to the Thursday afternoon performance at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow. The venue was positively heaving, unusual for a mid-week matinée slot and testament that Bourne’s brand of ballet can definitely put bums of all shapes and sizes on seats.

Bourne states that he started the choreographic process for Sleeping Beauty by revisiting previous versions of the story, of which there are many, some Grimm, some not so. He concluded that a major plot failing was the lack of narrative tension once Aurora is awoken by her prince: their romance seems unconvincing unless you’re willing to place absolute faith in love at first sight. To get around this stumbling block, Bourne borrows from the current mania for vampire lore. So, without giving too much away, the Lilac Fairy becomes Count Lilac and one small bite changes the whole dynamic of the love story.

As befits any good fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty begins with the immortal words “Once upon a time…” The action then spans a period of 121 years, with scenes set in 1890, 1911 and 2011. The choreography and costume design both tip a nod to the popular dance styles and fashion of each era. The use of jeans and hoodies for the modern-day scenes certainly couldn’t be further removed from conventional ballet attire. Not a tutu in sight.

My personal feeling about ballet is that the intricacies of the plot are probably less important than the underlying themes explored. As a result, I no longer tie myself up in knots trying to figure out every detail of what’s going on but instead just let the music and choreography work their magic. Sleeping Beauty is clearly a classic tale of good versus evil. But it also represents a rite of passage and the character of Aurora is central to this premise. Bourne’s Aurora is portrayed as a spirited force of nature, a wild child stifled by convention, prone to running barefoot through the woods. Rather than performing precise stylised steps on pointe, she dances in a free, naturalistic style reminiscent of Isadora Duncan. No wonder then that Aurora has so easily made the transition from the human world to the sphere of fairies and vampires by the time we reach “…and they lived happily ever after.”

The dancer who played the part of Aurora was truly excellent, as were Count Lilac and the baddie, Caradoc. However, a special mention must also go to the infant Aurora, represented in this production by a puppet so lifelike that I found it downright sinister.

Sleeping Beauty marks another step in my personal new adventure into the world of ballet. I already have two parts of Bourne’s Tchaikovsky trinity in the bag. Just Swan Lake to go…

http://www.new-adventures.net/productions/sleeping_beauty

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Nutcracker!

The Nutcracker

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Christmas is a busy time for the nation’s theatres.

Nutcracker-25

Nutcracker-25 (Photo credit: skyobrienpics)

Seasonal offerings generally fall into one of two camps: panto or ballet. Pantos are literally dime a dozen in Glasgow; however, the Theatre Royal has opted to buck this citywide trend and instead stages an annual ballet. This year, Scottish Ballet are treating patrons to their interpretation of The Nutcracker.

I love a panto (oh, yes I do!) but feel it’s more of a friends and family kind of outing. Finding myself with a free afternoon in the run-up to Christmas, I purchased a solo ticket for the ballet on something of a whim. Matinée audiences are always a little different from their evening counterparts. Judging from the rustling of John Lewis carrier bags, I would bet that many of my fellow theatre-goers had spent the morning doing a little last-minute gift shopping…

I saw Matthew Bourne’s version of the show back in February, so it was interesting to compare and contrast with Ashley Page’s choreography for Scottish Ballet. I’m no expert but this production seemed more traditional, at least in the tights and tutus sense. Nevertheless, there was an underlying darkness and sense of menace.

Costume and design were real winners. The action was set in the Weimar Republic of 1920s Germany and the costumes referenced that era with slinky flapper dresses, cigarette holders and Louise Brooks-inspired bobs. The set design incorporated surrealist touches: Herr Drosselmeyer reclining in a pocket watch; a cartoon mouse peeking through the window; a giant-headed infant in a pram.

In terms of the score, most of the “hits” come in Act 2. The Maltester-rattling group of ladies in the row behind were concerned with the intricacies of the plot but, for me, the set pieces were simply a chance to sit back and enjoy the magic of dance. With a witty nod to the 1920s setting, some Charleston steps found their way into the choreography. Otherwise, it was all what you would expect from The Nutcracker: pointe shoes, snowflakes, pirouettes, a pas de deux. The overall effect was so relaxing that (despite the lashing rain) I floated out of the theatre on a cloud of loveliness and promptly fell asleep on the train journey home.

My verdict? If the countdown to Christmas is leaving you feeling frazzled and worn, you could do a lot worse than treat yourself to a ticket for The Nutcracker. I’m pretty sure that an afternoon spent in a darkened theatre is a more effective stress buster than lighting a cheap scented candle or falling face first into a tin of Quality Street.

December 2013 will see Scottish Ballet’s new Artistic Director, Christoper Hampson, flex his creative muscles in a festive production of Hansel & Gretel. The poster is gorgeous – I can hardly wait.

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Nutcracker!