© The Financial Times Ltd 2014 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
July 24, 2012 12:04 pm
“A Nightmare” is the subtitle Peter Schaufuss gives to his version of Swan Lake, and this is the (unwitting, I suppose) perfect description of the first staging in a week’s season by the Schaufuss Ballet at the Coliseum. The incredulous eye, the disbelieving senses – mine, and surely any honourable ballet-lover’s – are the only likely responses to this opening blast in a dance-trilogy whose dubious argument is Schaufuss’s bizarre dramatic scheme linking Tchaikovsky’s three dance-scores in an over-arching narrative. Historical fact to the contrary, Schaufuss offers only nagging fatuities in this production to sabotage the accepted drama, and I find them insufferable.
As to details: there is a serious, albeit heavily-trimmed, recording of the score. The affair lasts, with one interval, some 105 minutes. The setting proposes a partially mirrored back to the stage, and an illuminated dance-area on which the action takes its unlikely place. There is costuming of blazing unlikelihood: swans (both male and female) in white trouser-ettes, white bonnets, vestigial feathered bodices; Siegfried in black trousers and a manic cardigan; Von Rothbart wearing a fetishistic black leather tail-coat; Siegfried’s mother in flowing black, a bad temper and dreariest dance. Assorted corps de ballet dancers (and none too many of them) rush eagerly about, notable – in a production determinedly under-lit - for willingness rather than coherent style. There are two Jesters whose behaviour is singularly depressing in manner and matter.
The choreography for Siegfried and the two temperature-lowering danseuses who play Odette and Odile is obsessively concerned with floor-bound writhing. No amount of special pleading, of aesthetic jiggery-pokery, can excuse Schaufuss’s weird libretto as it plays its fatuous game by way of crass mickey-mousing and dismal romping to Tchaikovsky’s ardours. The fine young Danish danseur, Alban Lendorf, wastes his time as the supposed hero Siegfried: dark trews against a dark set render any dance virtues almost invisible.
The other performers were, to my glazed eyes, formidably tiresome. Irek Mukhamedov, a guest, was – when the murky production permitted – his prodigious self, and a single gesture from him was worth all the frenetic mumming from the rest of the cast. Hell gaped.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.