Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ey Up from Upperthong

I've just come back from a jaunt to t'Smoke. I should've got back three hours ago but some blighters closed the M1 between junctions 15 and 18 which decanted the North bound carriageway of one of the busiest motorways into a country lane. Not only that but they put up downright misleading diversion signs which led me on a magic mystery tour of the East Midlands. Just the sort of jolly jape one appreciates in the wee small hours of the morning.

Any road as it is now too late to get any decent kip I'll tell thee about my adventures in the Great Wen. I'd gone down to see two shows, Birmingham Royal Ballet's Shadows of War at Sadler's Wells in the afternoon and MurleyDance's Hail Britannia at The Shaw Theatre in the evening. Both shows were outstanding though in different ways and, to some extent, actually complementary. As I think I am the only person on the planet to have seen the two shows back to back I count myself very fortunate.

 "To begin at the beginning", I arrived at the Wells early to meet LinMM from BalletcoForum who is lovely. Shortly afterwards we were joined by Don Q Fan and Aileen who are also very sweet. I had already met Don Q Fan at The Lowry in January and we get on like a house of fire. Aileen I had not met before and it was lovely to put a name to a face. The four of us had a fair old chin wag about ballet before the bell summoned us to our seats.

I'm going to do a proper review of both shows later in the week. All I will say about Shadows of War for the moment is that I enjoyed all three ballets but Miracle in the Gorbals was enthralling. It started off eerily with the sound of planes, explosions, anti-aircraft fire and sirens and then Sir Arthur Bliss's wonderful score, A museum piece? Not at all. Think of religious fundamentalism. It's as relevant today as it was in wartime.

Miracle was preceded by La Fin du Jour with striking set designs and even more striking choreography. Two movements in particular took my breath away. The way in which two of the women were thrown through the air and caught again and then a spring several feet in air by two of the men from a prone position. I really felt for them.

The triple bell was polished off by Flowers of the Forest with the men in kilts and the women in tartan skirts and green bonnets and jackets. I would have dressed the ladies in white gowns with tartan sashes as women used to dress for ceilidhs and Highland balls many years ago. The back drop of hills and swirling mist was very effective. I loves two scenes in particular - one of a couple of drunks staggering and eventually collapsing with the girls dancing something like the Huntley over their spread eagled limbs and a lovely lyrical pas de deux where the man performed an ecstatic tour en l'air flooding Burns's verse into my mind.

While we were dissecting the Miracle Don Q Fan noticed a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON from the Royal Ballet whom our mutual friend from Liverpool greatly admires. I won't steal Don Q Fan's thunder by saying who it is but suffice it to say that a photo was taken of VIP and I was the one fumbling with Don Q Fan's mobile as bells rang and folk scurried back to their seats with VIP graciously standing. He even waited for a second photo with me in the piccy.

So after chatting away merrily for another hour we four musketeers went our separate ways. My next stop was the Shaw to see Hail Britannia. One might have thought that this would have been an anticlimax after Shadows of War but it wasn't. It was just as good but in a very different way. First we were clapping and tapping to Anaish Parmar's  Shaadi. It was good to see a balletic interpretation  of the song and dance routines that always seems to work themselves into Hindi films. I loved the henna party, the use of pointe and the mother in law reminding me of a very, very, very dear friend.

Next up was Wayward Kinship by the amazingly young Richard Chappell. That had a lot in common with Miracle in the Gorbals in that it also dealt with religion pushed to extremes and the hero coming to a very sticky end.

Then came Frisky Claptrap a love triangle between three backpackers, two blokes and a girl, against a background of  trains and quaint British place names. One of those quaint sounding place names was Upperthong which is a village in the Holme Vallet where I lived for 7 years. I now live in one of the neighbouring villages a couple of miles away. Above is a picture of Upperthong which is right on the edge of the Pennines and thus endures one of the wettest and windiest climates in the country. Other places that tickled David Murley's funny bone were Cockfosters, Fannyfield and Llanfair­pwllgwyn­gyllgo­gery­chwyrn­drobwll­llanty­silio­gogo­goch. If you want to know how to pronounce the last place name watch Newport State of Mind. A quick memo to David. We also have a place called Netherthong in our valley. Thong, nether garments. Did thou miss a trick, lad?

Finally there was Murley's Highgrove Suite which was the piece de resistance. What it had to do with Prince Charles's country pad was not obvious but there was some cracking choreography.   As I say, I'll review it properly in the fullness of time. I last saw MurleyDance in December (see MurleyDance Triple Bill 2 Dec 2014). The company was good then and is even better now. I can't wait for its first full length ballet next year.

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