Sunday, 5 April 2015

Ballet Theatre UK's Aladdin

A good test of the mettle of a company is how well it copes with adversity. Because it danced in Southport in the middle of Easter bank holiday weekend a lot of things went wrong yesterday most of which were not the fault of the company.

First, The Atkinson's bakery closed at 15:00.  This is one of the USPs of the theatre if not the whole metropolitan borough of Sefton. My hungry crowd which included an omnivorous and voracious 4 year old who c an't stop jumping and running and "the foodie friend" referred to in my review of The Atkinson of 2 Aug 2014 had been saving themselves for the Bakery's delights all the way from Yorkshire. Quelle deception! We had to hoof off scouring the town for fish and chips which was our second choice.  I am sorry to say as an exiled Lancastrian in the Land of the Tykes that the establishment that claimed to be the best chippie in town was decidedly inferior in the size of its portions and the quality of its frying to the West Riding average. Secondly, the Atkinson's ladies' was a disgrace.  No bog roll in the cubicles and tissues floating in the communal sink in which we were supposed to wash our hands. Thirdly, we were kept out of the auditorium until well after the advertised start of the show. Fourthly, nobody was selling programmes or even giving away cast lists which means that I can't give you any details of the synopsis or even the composer of the score. I can tell you the names of some of the dancers but only because the mum of one of the dancers told me before the show. I can also say that Daniel Hope designed the costumes but only because of the video Ballet Theatre UK - The Making of Aladdin - Costumes.  Finally, there was a much smaller crowd than I had seen for The Little Mermaid or Swan Lake which was hardly surprising given the date of the performance.

Yet despite all those glitches it was still a good show. The young dancers danced their hearts out and were rewarded at the end by enthusiastic applause and even whoops of delight in the case of Philip Tunstall who danced the jinn. Two ladies in row B actually rose to their feet.  So I think artistic director Christopher Moore can safely chalk up yesterday's show as a success malgré tout.  His heart must have been in his shoes even more than his dancers David Brewer and Ines Ferreira at the end of a very difficult pas de deux in the last scene of the show.

Aladdin is not an easy story to tell in ballet terms. There was an awful lot of detail in Act I that I couldn't follow. Happily I was put in the picture by Janet McNulty of BalletcoForum whom I met in the bar in the interval. She had a much better recollection of the Bintley plot than I did and she was able to reel off the story as well as Madame Novikova of Pathe Live. Act II was much easier to follow and contained some thrilling choreography including the pas de deux that I mentioned above. I was impressed with Brewer and Ferreira. My companion Gita liked Tunstall and a dancer who fitted the description of Sarah Mortimer. Gita who is new to ballet but not to dance spots technical points that I miss. And 4 year old Vlad loved the sword swallower. He likes ballet but I had feared that yesterday's show might have been too long and too complex for him. It wasn't. He was leaping and bowing like the dancers he had just seen even before we left the auditorium.

I do urge the denizens of Dartford and other towns to flock to the show on Tuesday and subsequently for they will have a good time. A company of this quality deserves a good crowd.  I just hope that the management of those theatres do a better job than The Atkinson did yesterday. As yesterday fell in the middle of a double bank holiday weekend I am not giving up on that normally excellent arts centre.

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