Keep It Cool

By Poesio, Giannandrea | The Spectator, February 7, 2009 | Go to article overview

Keep It Cool


Poesio, Giannandrea, The Spectator


Triple Bill

Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House

'Saucy' and 'funky' are not terms one would normally expect to hear in relation to a ballet performance.

Nor is the irritatingly ubiquitous 'cool', which is what my young(er) date uttered last Saturday at the end of the Royal Ballet's triple bill. Yet they all suit perfectly well a programme that edges provocatively on the borders of dance-theatre and postmodern dance, and stands out for being highly entertaining as well as refreshingly amusing.

Indeed, a baritone in drag, shouting Spaniards, sleazy motels and bars and a kind of butch, cigar-smoking Carmen might not be everyone's idea of ballet. Still, this notso-traditionally-classical evening is a superb showcase of what ballet can also be today, thus providing the Royal Ballet artists with a unique chance to engage with performing modes other than the often stale, more conventional ones.

I was particularly happy to see Will Tuckett's Seven Deadly Sins again, for I had given it the thumbs up the first time round, and had fond memories of it. This, Kurt Weill's and Bertolt Brecht's so-called ballet, is indeed a diabolical one to stage, particularly in the light of all that has been said and written about its creators. Wisely, Tuckett steers away from a philological rendition of their revered formulae, as well as from a more radical reading of the same.

His staging is a beautifully linear, theatrically well-devised interpretation that takes into account a number of cultural, historical, political and theoretical factors; but it never slips into one of those mind-boggling and mind-taxing exercises in performance analysis that the Brecht/Weill's oeuvre seem to elicit these days. As Anna I, Martha Wainwright provides a uniquely non-clichéd rendition of the songs, which matches and complements, in terms of style, tone and interpretation, Zenaida Yanowsky's mesmerisingly powerful dance reading of Anna II. …

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