Before curtain-up at the Coliseum, a voice advises us to “report any suspicious objects” to the management. Idle words when the suspicious object is the stupefying production by Boris Eifman’s troupe that the theatre is housing this week.
Eifman is regarded as a choreographer in Russia, where his hectic, vulgar stagings are thought credible. I found them, as I found this study of Rodin and his sculptures and his mistress, Camille Claudel, crass in manner, un-musical, blustering in dance, and agonisingly long-winded.
I am surprised that St Petersburg, home of classic dance, whose architecture bespeaks ideals of nobility, can harbour these coarse-grained dance-dramas from Eifman, proponent of the choreographic sledgehammer and emotional mugging.
This extravaganza offers brutish dramatics and inexorable physical bombast. The score is spatchcocked from various late-19th-century French composers in reverberant recordings – not least Saint-Saens, unsubtly trimmed to convenient lengths. Eifman’s dancers rush about the stage, impersonate sculptures (fun on a climbing frame as white-clad bodies are brought to life), cancan dancers, madhouse inmates (much too frequently), while demonstrating a manner and a choreography both hectoring and over-dramatic.
The leading performers emote with inexorable vivacity and roaring improbability – Rodin as neurotic rugby forward; the ever-dishevelled Camille as contortionist with serious personal problems; another mistress as disaffected hooker.
You long for the interval. You wonder why music can be so brutalised and so inapt for its task. You wonder what Russian audiences can see in this tosh.