Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Diolch yn Fawr - Ballet Cymru's Beauty and the Beast

No not the Beast but the Lincoln Imp
Source Wikipedia

When I saw Ballet Cymru's Romeo a Juliet last year I wrote:
"I would really like to see more of James's choreography. I have seen a lot of ballet over the last 40 years or so. I rarely get as excited about a company as I did on Saturday."
(See "They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport" 14 May 2014). On Sunday I got my chance. I saw Ballet Cymru's Beauty and the Beast at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre ("LPAC").

LPAC is a complex of studios and auditorium that houses the School of Performing Arts of the University of Lincoln. The university campus stands a few hundred yards from Brayford Pool, a massive expanse of water caused by the broadening of the River Witham in the city centre. It is a wonderful feature that reminds me very much of Perth in Western Australia where there is a similar broadening of the Swan River. Like Edinburgh Lincoln has an old town and a new town though I am not sure that the locals use that terminology. As in Edinburgh the new town has the department stores and offices while the old town has a cathedral and castle. And again like Edinburgh there is a steep hill leading up to the castle and cathedral which is actually called "Steep Hill".

If you mount Steep Hill and enter the cathedral you will find a mischievous wee beastie called the Lincoln Imp who seems to have caused quite a lot of havoc in the East of England in times gone by. The mention of the imp brings me very neatly to Darius James and Amy Doughty's production of Beauty and the Beast. The ballet opened with the company standing still on stage. Then words appeared on the backdrop about children and myth and a quotation from Jean Cocteau who is of course the author of the screenplay and director of La Belle et la Bête.

The ballet follows Cocteau's film somewhat more closely than the de Villeneuve story which makes for strong roles for the beast Mandev Sokhi and Beauty Lydia Arnoux. The beast's costume is a wonderful concoction which looks like something from outer space. The head looks like a cow's skull with horns and his feat are rails. How Sokhi managed to dance in that beats me. Ballet Cymru has very kindly provided me with some pictures of him which Mel will use in her critique of the ballet but if you want to get an idea of his appearance take a butcher's at the holding page of Ballet Cymru's temporary website.  Though a small company it is a pretty good one with some talented dancers. The dancers had to double as Beauty's family and the Beast's attendants. All performed well, Nicholas Capelle as Beauty's father, Daniel Morrison as her suitor, Andrea Battaggia as her spendthrift brother, Robbie Moorcroft as his friend and Krystal Lowe, Natalie Debono and Annette Antal as Beauty's sisters.

As in Romeo a Juliet the designer Steve Denton made skillful use of the projector to effect scene changes from the happy homestead where Beauty lives with her family to the entrance and the interior of the beast's castle. I also loved David Westcott's score. I have reviewed three productions of Beauty and the Beast over the years: Peter Darrell's for Scottish Ballet in Aien (the St Andrews University student newspaper in 1970), David Nixon's for Northern Ballet in 2011 in IP Yorkshire and finally this production. Of the three I liked Ballet Cymru's the most and I think that is largely because I enjoyed Westcott's composition so much.

As soon as the show was over I tweeted
It was picked up immediately by Chantry Dance who gave me my first taste of performing also at Lincoln (see Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance 10 May 2014):
Neither Mel nor I wanted to go home straight after the show so we bounded up Steep Hill as though the Beast was behind us. There we were rewarded with a view of the floodlit cathedral in the twilight. So Diolch yn fawr Ballet Cymru for a lovely day.

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