Monday, 29 October 2018
French Revelation: "The Three Musketeers"
Standard YouTube Licence
Northern Ballet The Three Musketeers The Lyceum, Sheffield, 27 Oct 2018, 19:45
Coincidentally the last three ballets that I have seen have been set in pre-revolutionary France. There was Ashton's Fille that I first saw over 50 years ago which was performed at The Lowry by Birmingham Royal Ballet. There was Manon by Sir Kenneth MacMillan danced by English National Ballet at the Manchester Opera House. Finally, there was Northern Ballet's rendering of David Nixon's Three Musketeers at the Sheffield Lyceum.
As I know La Fille mal gardée very well and as it had been created by one of the greatest choreographers who has ever lived I was sure that I would like that work best. I thought Manon would be number two as it had been created by one of the other all time greats. I did not know Manon as well as I know Fille but I had seen two impressive HDTV transmissions from Covent Garden. I feared The Three Musketeers would be a bit of an anticlimax as I have not liked every ballet that Nixon has made. As it happened I enjoyed The Three Musketeers most of all though, I hasten to add, I liked Fille and Manon very much too.
I think the reason that I liked the Musketeers so much is that the company danced particularly well. They performed with energy and flair. They were well rehearsed - as slick and polished as ever I have seen them. They looked as though they were enjoying themselves - particularly the sword fights which were as gripping as anything in Romeo and Juliet - and the touches of slapstick humour like burying the washerwomen with laundry.
I was delighted to see Gavin McCaig (whom I had featured when he first joined the company) as Athos and Javier Torres (my dancer of the year for 2017) as Porthos. Riku Ito was a sleek d'Artagnan and Sean Bates a convincing Aramis. I am used to seeing Mlindi Kulashe in villainous roles like Mr Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre, the Fury in The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, Casanova's persecutor, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast and Tybalt. It was a surprise to see him as an "easily manipulated" king.
As for the female roles, the heroine is Constance danced on Saturday by Ayami Miyata. Intriguingly, I see from her profile that she would have been a lawyer had she not been a dancer. I know of many barristers who imagine themselves on stage. It is rare and a little flattering to find a beautiful dancer who must have contemplated life the other way round. Constance's nemesis is Milady de Winter danced by Minju Kang. The fight between those women and the discovery of Milady's branding, of course, the denouement of the story. It was good to see Pippa Moore again as Constance's mum and Rachael Gillespie as Marie de Hautbois.
The libretto by David Drew bears about as much resemblance to Alexandre Dumas's novel as Petipa's Don Quixote does to Cervantes's. There is a magnificent score by Sir Malcolm Arnold as arranged by John Longstaff. The sets by Charles Cusick Smith and costumes are gorgeous.
The show moves on to Canterbury which is easy to reach from London by HS1. It opens at the Marlowe Theatre on the 31 Oct and continues to 3 Nov 2018. This is one of the best ballets in the British Isles not to come out of London. I urge my metropolitan chums to see it.