I attended Ballet Theatre UK's performance of Aladdin in Southport with Jane and her family on 4 April 2015 (see Ballet Theatre UK's Aladdin 5 April 2015). Like Jane I was annoyed at having to wait outside the auditorium until minutes before the start of the show and the lack of programmes and cast sheets.
I saw the show again at The Key Theatre in Peterborough on Saturday and I am glad to say that it had improved greatly. I set out my immediate reactions in a text to Jane who had been watching the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company at the Linbury. I wrote:
"Performance polished, refined and graceful. The pas de deux was as smooth as a baby's bottom. Real improvement on last time and very well articulated by the dancers. The male dancers as a group were very well composed and extremely responsive to the score and well disciplined."The production was more polished in other ways. In Southport some of the dancers seemed to be in danger of losing their costumes. Nothing like that happened in Peterborough.
However, there were still no cast lists or programmes making it difficult for me to identify the dancers and I found that really annoying. It is also unfortunate that the dancers do not get the credit they deserve. I appreciate that BTUK must have lots of overheads with its extensive touring but a Xeroxed cast list or even just a sign on an easel at the entrance to the auditorium (which is what Matthew Bourne's company does) would hardly break the bank. We were after all paying nearly £20 per head for our tickets. I might add that many theatre goers keep a programme as a souvenir of their evening. With a programme they are much more likely to come twice.
Another reason why the absence of a programme was annoying is that there was no synopsis. It was not easy to follow what is going on. That is partly because the choreography was too complex. Each sequence was exquisite. The costumes and coiffures were gorgeous. But it was all too much.The ballet would have benefited from far fewer scenes, particularly in Act I. The succession of dances complicated rather than elucidated the story. The changes of costume did little to assist my comprehension.
I attended the ballet with an enthusiastic family member who was born in Mumbai but who had lived in this country for many years. She had read the story of Aladdin twice and was reasonably familiar with it. This was her first experience of ballet and I suggested Aladdin to her because of its oriental theme, colour and music which I thought might appeal to her tastes. As it happened I was right. She did enjoy all that as well as the pointe work but she asked me several times to explain what was happening and I was not really able to help her. There must have been many people like us in the audience and if they can't understand a performance there is a risk that they will conclude that ballet is not for them.
In the absence of a cast list I think the following roles were danced by the following dancers:
- Aladdin David Brewer
- Princess Ines Ferreira
- Genie Philip Tunstall
- Slave of the Ring Jessica Hill
- Magician Vincent Cabot
- Sultan Robert Noble
Being a sports fan I am used to looking out for a man or woman of the match. In this ballet I would award the person of the match (overall best dancer) to Ines and man of the match (best male dancer) to David. Having seen the same ballet in diametrically opposite parts of England I consulted their website to see where else they danced. They do go to a lot of places. I counted over 50 shows in just short of 4 months. The distances they have to cover between venues in a very short time are considerable. I feel really sorry for the young dancers. It all makes me wonder whether a little less could yield so much more.
I should like to say a word about the Key Theatre. It is a very pleasant venue on the banks of the Nene. It is quite a modern building and all facilities were in order. It has an elegant restaurant with great service where we savoured asparagus and poached egg with Hollandaise sauce and beautiful French fries. Generous portions too. Save for the lack of programmes and cast lists it was a much better experience than at the Atkinson."
6 June 2015 RhodaKuc BalletcoForum