|Marion Pettet as Carabosse|
(c) 2016 Chelmsford Ballet Company, all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the company
Chelmsford Ballet Company, The Sleeping Beauty, Chelmsford Civic Theatre, 19 March 2016
Some would say that I am not the best person to write this review on the ground that I am far from unbiased. It is true that I am more than a Friend or well wisher of the Chelmsford Ballet Company as I am an associate member of the company and if I lived nearer I would audition for dancing membership. My membership of this remarkable company, which will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its origins next year, is a source of enormous pride. Never have I been more proud of my membership of the Chelmsford Ballet Company than I was on Saturday evening when I saw its performance of The Sleeping Beauty.
The Sleeping Ballet is not an easy ballet to stage because it is very long and has an enormous cast. It is also associated in the minds of us Brits with the re-opening of the Royal Opera House on the 20 Feb 1946 with a cast that included Moira Shearer, Leslie Edwards. Gillian Lynne, Henry Danton, Beryl Gray, Michael Somes, Robert Halpmann, Jean Bedells, Harold Turner, Gerd Larsen, Stanley Holden, Pamela May and, of course, Margot Fonteyn. It is therefore a challenge to any company, particularly one that is composed largely of men and women with full time careers outside dance.
Our company responded to that challenge admirably.
First, our choreographer and artistic director, Annette Potter, pruned Petipa's choreography to manageable lengths adapting the work to the capabilities of her dancers who ranged widely in age and experience without sacrificing any of the important and often difficult bits such as the rose adagio or bluebird pas de deux.
Secondly, she had an excellent cast: Scarlett Mann as Aurora who had danced the title role in Pineapple Poll so enchantingly last year (see A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015), Lucy Abbott as the lilac fairy (quite a challenge as the company's co-patron dances Count Lilac in Sir Matthew Bourne's production of The Sleeping Beauty). guest artists Andrei Iliescu as Prince Florimund, Emily Starling as the fairy in the vision and Matthew Powell as one of the princes in the rose adagio, Morgan Wren who has advanced tremendously since I saw him as Fritz in The Nutcracker two years ago (see The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy 20 March 2014) and of course the magnificent Marion Petter as Carabosse. Everybody in the show performed well and the only reason why I have not mentioned them all individually is that this review is long enough already.
The third ingredient of the show's success was its special effects. There were indoor fireworks as Carabosse made her entrances and exits. A menacing image projected onto the backdrop presaged her arrival at Aurora's christening and birthday party. An ingenious animation represented a century's growth of vegetation around Aurora and her family. The programme credited Phil Rhodes with special effects. Clearly he is a talented young man and I hope to see more of his work in future.
There is in fact a lot of talent in Chelmsford. For me, Marion Pettett stole the show as she did last year as Mrs Dimple and Britannia in Pineapple Poll and the mother in Carnival of the Animals. She positively exuded evil with her rodent like acolytes. Gita, the other member of Team Terpsichore, likes to choose a man or woman of the match when she attends the ballet as she is an accomplished sportswoman. Her choice for this show was Morgan Wren and I can quite see why. But there is also talent bubbling up from below. The smallest of Carabosse's acolytes had real stage presence as she took her leave of the audience before scurrying off with her evil mistress. I don't know that child's name but I do hope she carries on with her dance and theatre studies because she has great aptitude for the performing arts. It is worth adding that that young girl was by no means the only young person to show promise.
It is rare for ballet companies to receive a standing ovation in this country but there were more than a few members of the audience who rose to their feet at the end of Saturday evening's show. The audience in the Chelmsford Civic was not unsophisticated. It knew when to clap - for instance the entrance of the principals and difficult bits of the choreography. I don't think that they would rise for anyone or anything without good reason and the fact that so many did on Saturday night speaks volumes for the show.
I do not know what Annette Potter and Marion Pettett are planning for next year's show but as it was in 1947 that Joan Weston organized a troupe of dancers at Broomfield YMCA which became Chelmsford Ballet I am sure that it will be good. Having achieved a lot over the years the company has a lot to celebrate. Though the March show is the highlight of the year the company holds other events such as Let's Make a Ballet for children in the Autumn and the Hutton and Shenfield Choral Society's Christmas show. Occasionally, they arrange coach trips to West End shows. I know we have the Choral but I wish we had a something like the Chelmsford Ballet in Huddersfield.