Let’s have a crack at some more theatre and dance memories! May to July 2007

  1. Ballet Boyz Encore – Milton Keynes Theatre, 2nd May 2007

Still trading under their name George Piper Dances – for perhaps their last time? – the Balletboyz returned for their Spring Tour with the show Encore. Unfortunately their dancer Oxana Panchenko sustained an injury during rehearsals and they had to change the programme substantially in order to provide a show to their paying audience – so only half of the expected programme could go ahead. So that night we saw Satie Stud, followed by Jjanke, and then Propeller (with Amy Hollingsworth dancing instead of Ms Panchenko) and then Michael and Billy had to bring back Russell Maliphant’s Torsion for the second half – but that was always a thoroughly enjoyable dance, so I don’t suppose we were particularly affected by the change!

  1. The Entertainer – The Old Vic, London, 7th May 2007

We went with our friends Paul and Pauline to see John Osborne’s famous play – the first time I’d seen it – with the huge attraction of seeing Robert Lindsay in the part of Archie Rice. Even fourteen years ago, The Entertainer was something of a period piece; let’s face it, few of us remember the Cheeky Chappie Max Miller nowadays. It’s still a landmark work though, and Mr Lindsay was as brilliant as you’d expect.

  1. Evita – Adelphi Theatre, London, 19th May 2007

This was my third visit to see a production of Evita, but there was such a vibe about how good Elena Roger was in the part that we thought we simply had to see it; and indeed she was. The evening was kind of ruined by a very noisy, drunk and fidgety couple behind us; they didn’t take any hints from the people around them that they basically needed to shut up, and at the end several punters from the nearby seats rounded on them in complaint. As a result of their behaviour, not much of the rest of the production has stayed in my head. Shame when that happens!

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 6th June 2007

Always a delight to see NDT2, the young company of the Nederlands Dans Theater, on one of their regular tours. The programme consisted of Jiri Kylian’s Sleepless, then Lightfoot/Leon’s Sleight of Hand, and finally Alexander Ekman’s Flockwork. I entered a competition by Dance Consortium to win a signed programme – and I won! So a couple of week’s later they sent it to me – as you can see in the pictures. Sadly this was the last time we saw NDT2 until 2016.

  1. Coppelia – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 9th June 2007

I’d always wanted to see a production of Coppelia, and this new production combined the original Petipa choreography with some new moves by Enrico Cecchetti and Peter Wright. Laura Purkiss danced the title role, with Nao Sakuma as Swanilda, Chi Cao as Franz and Michael O’Hare as Dr Coppelius. Highly enjoyable!

  1. Chicago – Milton Keynes Theatre, 13th June 2007

This was only my second time of seeing Chicago (and Mrs Chrisparkle’s first) and I knew it had undergone a huge structural revamp from its original 1970s production – so I wanted to see what the fuss was for myself. I don’t have much recollection of it – but we didn’t know any of the performers, and my guess was that it was about now that I started to realise that (shock horror!) I don’t really like Chicago as a show much – I dislike the way it celebrates the bad and mocks the good. But that’s just me!

  1. Kismet – English National Opera at the London Coliseum, 7th July 2007

I had been looking forward to seeing this show so much – I had seen Kismet only once before as a teenager and I loved it, and it was one of the Dowager Mrs C’s favourite shows too. The production was beset by problems with key personnel walking out and what we saw was an under-rehearsed, under-presented mess that rightly received shockingly bad reviews. Nevertheless, it was Kismet, and I still loved it! Michael Ball was Hajj the poet and Alfie Boe the Caliph.

  1. The Drowsy Chaperone – Novello Theatre, London, 21st July 2007

More shock bad reviews for a show that had done so well on Broadway and should have set the capital alight – but we really enjoyed The Drowsy Chaperone, a clever, well-presented show with an excellent cast, lots of humour and surprises. Elaine Paige was the Chaperone herself, with Steve Pemberton giving a terrific central performance as the Man in Chair, plus performers of the likes of John Partridge, Nickolas Grace and Summer Strallen.

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Oxford Shakespeare Company at Wadham College, Oxford, 28th July 2007

A two-show visit to the gardens of Wadham College – fortunately the weather was perfect – first to see the OSC’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed with all their usual brightness and humour; I particularly remember a lovely moment when Hermia is hauling her suitcases over the rough terrain and Demetrius is simply carrying his toothbrush. Great stuff as always.


  1. Romeo and Juliet – Globe Touring Productions at Wadham College, Oxford, 28th July 2007

In another part of the gardens, for the evening we saw the Globe Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet; and I’m afraid we didn’t like it much. Modernised but in a rather brutal and distancing way, we couldn’t get into it. A good cast nonetheless, including a young Richard Madden as Romeo… I wonder what became of him?!

Review – Coppelia, Russian State Ballet of Siberia, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 28th January 2020

83889505_514489085853548_7127031167198429184_nIt’s a happy welcome back to the Russian State Ballet of Siberia, who graced us with their presence last year when we enjoyed their Snow Maiden. For 2020 they have returned with productions of Sleeping Beauty on Monday and Swan Lake on Wednesday, but we plumped for Coppelia on Tuesday, because we’ve only seen it once before and I did feel like I needed a refresher.

CoppeliaBased in Krasnoyarsk they bring an enticing whiff of the Steppes to our shores, blending innate elegance with technical expertise and a delightful observance of all the conventions of the Grand Russian Ballet. These conventions tend to get unrecognised by us Britishers, but I’m always amused and impressed by the performers’ ability to break off from a dance to take a spontaneous round of applause (always received with utmost humility) and I love the way they walk a wide circuit of the stage to receive gracious acknowledgement gestures from the dancers clinging to the edges. During the next week I shall wave graciously at Mrs Chrisparkle when she comes out of the shower. If it’s good enough for the Siberians, it’s good enough for us.

Swanhilda and her friendsIt was good to be reminded of the content of Coppelia, because it’s a charming and surprisingly funny ballet, with the age-old simple story of boy meets girl meets automated doll. Girl gets jealous but when she discovers her rival is no more than some painted wood, she tricks boy into believing that she is the doll. Truth is revealed, they flee from the ire of the Doctor who has made the doll, there’s a long wedding sequence and they all live happily ever after. No dying swans here. A university friend once pointed out the similarities between the choreography in the video that accompanied Toni Basil’s Mickey and Coppelia. How we scoffed and mocked him for his pretentiousness. But, on reflection, he’s completely right.

Corps de BalletScenery-wise, it would be fair to say the Russian State Ballet of Siberia travel light, but they make up for it with some wonderfully stunning costumes. The ladies are resplendent in beautiful dresses, a mix of bold and subtle colours and styles that bring their own vivacity to the stage. Similarly, the gentlemen are bedecked in smart tunics and strongly coloured shirts; Egor Osokin’s fantastic red military suit as the Burgomeister stood out, as did Ivan Karnaukhov’s Doctor Coppelius’ bright blue cloak creation. The whole thing genuinely is a treat for the eyes, and that’s even without considering the dancing.

The CompanyThe evening started curiously; the lights went down and then there was a long pause before anything happened. Some desultory applause started at the back of the auditorium and at first I thought it was a few disgruntled punters taking the mick. But no, they could see from their vantage point that Maestro Anatoliy Chepurnoy had mounted his podium, although in the front stalls we couldn’t see him. Suddenly his little head popped up over the railing, and with some encouraging hand gestures exhorted us into a rousing round of applause. More! More! his wavy hands were saying, so a few pantomime-style whoops and cheers came from somewhere behind me. Satisfied that we’d greeted the audience with the fervour they deserved, he decided to get on with the conducting.

Franz and SwanhildaDelibes’ score is crammed with luscious tunes all the way through, none more luscious than its opening number, the famous Mazurka which gets your feet tapping and your legs entrechatting. They’ve played about with the sequence of the music a little bit; nevertheless, it sounds great, despite the couple of duff notes played by the horn towards the end of the first Act. They’ve also removed some of the spookier aspects to the story, making Coppelius less of a Doctor Evil and more of a crotchety old fop. No matter, it works well with Alexander Gorsky and Gennady Malkhasiants’ revised choreography.

Elena SvinkoIn the lead role of Swanhilda, Elena Svinko is outstanding. She was a magnificent Kupava in last year’s Snow Maiden and once again she brings elegance, skill and a terrific presence to the stage. She uses her expressions to tell the story so well that we completely understand the character and motivations of Swanhilda. She also always looks like she’s having a really wonderful time on stage, which is always a bonus for the Russian ballet. She is matched by Marcello Pelizzoni as Franz, a fresh-faced youth with impressive agility and style, who’s also a superb storyteller. Was he really only born in 1999? That’s amazing – this young man is truly going places. Together the two leads created an excellent partnership.

Marcello PelizzoniI enjoyed Ivan Karnaukhov’s semi-villainous Coppelius, flouncing theatrically around the stage; Mariami Kuloshvili didn’t have a large role to dance as the Coppelia Doll but when she brought it to life it was very entertaining. Miryam Roca created a very vivacious Town Celebrity character, and she was nicely accompanied by Egor Osokin’s dignified Burgomeister. The Fairy was danced by Anastasia Osokina with all the grace and charm that we saw last year, and I particularly enjoyed the trio danced by Nerea Astorga, Sofya Eremina and Arianna Guastaferro. The six Corps de Ballet dancers who played Swanhilda’s friends were totally enchanting, particularly bringing out the character and humour in the scene where they break into the Doctor’s toyroom.

There were one or two slightly dicey moments; a male member of the Corps had a worried look on his face throughout the whole of one dance and when it came to an end he wore that relieved expression you see on a pensioner when they’ve reached the top of an escalator and congratulate themselves on having got that far. It may have been the same chap who in the second Act dropped his hat early on and then kept giggling about it with his friends. There was also a moment when I had to stop Mrs C laughing when Mr Karnaukhov got the hem of this cloak caught under the door to the Doctor’s studio, and you could see frantic shiftings of material from the other side in an attempt to liberate the offending garment, whilst dancers battled on regardless. Inevitable, when a company only plays one performance of a dance at a theatre, that these little issues will emerge. But, on the whole, it was a high-quality performance and everyone seemed happy with how it all went, especially once they’d found Mr Chepurnoy to join them for the final curtain. After their visit to Northampton the company continues its tour to Wolverhampton, High Wycombe, Wimbledon, Southend, Canterbury, Brighton, Halifax, Oxford, Leicester, Basingstoke, Swindon, Ipswich, Bournemouth and Sheffield. I always enjoy seeing these dancers – and I’m sure you would too.

Four they’re jolly good fellows