15 October 2007

Richard II - Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadlers Wells, Saturday 13th October 2007

All right - a joke's a joke, but why were the orchestra playing the score backwards? Well, that's what it sounded like. Apparently John McCabe is one of our "foremost composers" - but this sounded like the soundtrack to a very bad Tom and Jerry cartoon played on a collection of old tin cans, rusty saw and the odd bit of catgut. PomPompomPom weasel diddley diddley diddley wah wah pom weasel weasel pom Pom DAHHHHHH diddley. There was a point in act 2 where I really didnt think I could stand the noise any longer as it was making my head hurt. This "score" sounds like the composer had picked up a load of crotchets and minims in a second hand job lot from somewhere and tipped them all over a big sheet of paper marked "Score for Richard II". Sorry, call me old fashioned, but this wasn't music, just noise.

The cacophony coming from the pit was well matched by the utter rubbish being danced on stage. I know that ballet shouldnt be all about sequins and glitter but for crissakes, who commissioned this crap? It really was the sort of rubbish that people clap because they think doing so makes them sound educated and appreciative of dance's "cutting edge" rather than because they really like it. There is some semblance of a plot (whether or not based on historical fact or just the overheated imaginings of a fusty old academic who's not had any tang lately), but nothing very thrilling - even the "Red Hot Poker Up the Jacksie" bit failed to ignite any spark of interest with me. And a substantial reward will be offered for anyone able to rationally explain the sudden arrival on stage of a small troupe of strolling players - one dressed as a jester with a 2 foot phallus attached to the front of his costume, one dressed as a donkey, one as the Virgin Mary and the other as Death. Oh, its Symbolic, is it? More like shambolic, if you ask me. Talk about the Emperor's New Clothes.

Oh yes, the costumes. Lets talk about them. Jasper Conran, dahling. Apparently, shiny pastel lounge suits with matching ties and shoes were SO "in" in 13th century France. As was the punk look for the hoi polloi - black string vests and tatty trousers with loads of strategically placed rips and zips. And as for the Evil Barons - well, everyone knows that Evil Barons always wear sweaty black studded leather and have long greasy hair, don't they? Of course they do.

The audience was pretty thin at this performance - probably everyone was staying home to watch England v France (oh, there's an unexpectedly relevant metaphor) - but the applause was surprisingly loud and prolonged. Perhaps, like me, everyone was extremely relieved that the evening was over.

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