Silence by Shakespeare

Wheeldon in rehearsal

The challenge with basing a ballet on Shakespeare isn’t, oddly, watching the words fall away. That’s a given. It’s how you mine the silences, the telling moments in which ambiguities cluster and on which the story turns. Christopher Wheeldon’s fascinating new ballet (for the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada) of The Winter’s Tale – the first recorded of that brilliantly strange late … [Read more...]

*sorry face*

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An actor looking to real life to research their next apology face might be disconcerted by Maria Miller. On Thursday, the UK government Culture Secretary was forced to make a public apology in the House of Commons for having (technical term) diddled her expenses. She could have wept with sorrow for misdeeds rightly punished; blushed because she’d been censored for having obstructed the inquiry; … [Read more...]

What did you do in the war, mummy?

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How do you stage warfare? In a year commemorating the centenary of the First World War, the conflict resists direct dramatisation. Naturalism struggles to capture the scale, and bathos might demean the dead. Dance embodied yet abstract vocabulary, a wordless form offers an opportunity to articulate the unspeakable. The choreographers in Lest We Forget, English National Ballet’s profoundly wrought … [Read more...]

Candy-coloured world of stupid

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Musicals should have jokes and tap dancing. There, I’ve said it. I’ve long thought it, sitting in the dark while leather-lunged belters lay about with coshes made of bombast and earnestness. Jokes and tap dancing, people. Jokes and tap dancing. Most musicals I see are for review, rather than on my own dollar. Partly that’s because that dollar doesn’t take you very far at West End prices (I will … [Read more...]

Speak, memory

Not I

How do you imagine your memory? As a rheumatic showgirl going through her old paces; a disembodied mouth yabbering its hoard; a frolicsome performance troupe or a whirring tape machine, speaking into the void? Memory is the story the mind tells itself about itself, the unreliable biography that is all we’ve got. We build it up and then it starts to fall through our fingers. But how do you put … [Read more...]

Diversity? Just do it

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At the Royal Opera House, ethnic diversity is usually more apparent among the ushers than the audience, but Ballet Black attracts a more varied crowd than the swanky home company can manage. This was evident in the ROH’s Linbury Theatre last night. And it was a rather good evening – two serious short pieces and, by Arthur Pita, the most deliriously enjoyable dance work of this short year. But … [Read more...]

Blow the past open

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To enjoy a classic novel, go to the theatre. That might be the lesson of two audacious recent British stagings. Headlong’s multimedia version of George Orwell’s 1984 has come to London’s Almeida Theatre, while a two-part adaptation of Jane Eyre in Bristol captures Charlotte Brontë’s tumultuous imaginative landscape. They and other adaptations (including long-running shows like War Horse, … [Read more...]

Shouldn’t the swan be breathing?

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There’s nothing like holding a gun to a swan to ruffle a balletgoer’s feathers. It’s hardly on the scale of Black Swan, but at Dance Gazette, the Royal Academy of Dance magazine, we caused a kerfuffle with ‘Keep, Rescue, Retire’ – a feature that invited leading international artistic directors to consider the state of the ballet repertoire. They all agreed it was too narrow – the victim of patchy … [Read more...]

Still walking. Still talking

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We all grow older. Since Performance Monkey last tottered towards the keyboard, his paws have grown sclerotic, his plush has rubbed off, he displays the rusty effect of winter and rough weather. He’s nearer death, as are we all. These merry reflections are inspired by Pina Bausch’s 1980, performed by the sublime Tanztheater Wuppertal. This was the work that turned a whole generation of British … [Read more...]

Dystopia, my old friend

Can you stage the internet? I'm just back from the sweetest, saddest performance I've seen in ages - and also the first that, in barely more than an hour, tells the story of the web's utopia turning to dystopia. Chris Goode is an utterly beguiling theatre maker, and The Hippo World Guest Book opened Lean Upstream, a festival devoted to his boundary-blurring work. Goode's erudite, funny website … [Read more...]