Sunday, 15 June 2014

Rock the Ballet Rasta Thomas' Bad Boys of Ballet

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, is a pervasive influence in Rasta Thomas’ ‘Rock the Ballet’ in choreographic tropes or Thriller-styled suits and preppy polo shirts. Behind the ‘bad boys’ strap-line, the peacock is undeniable. Yet it’s tamed. 

The seven dancers are at the top of their game; their virtuosity and athleticism is breath-taking. Kicks, pirouettes, flips seem to come from nowhere. Ballet meets contemporary, meets hip-hop, meets street jive with a loose time-line of sorts from the 60s to the present day. The high-energy show shuffles through an ipod playlist from The Chemical Brothers to U2; Olafur Arnalds to Basement Jaxx, and with a pumping bass and MTV inspired projections, it’s like being trapped inside a lava-lamp. Colours of deep purple, lush green, sky blue, flaming red and tangy orange play amidst pixellated abstractions, sky-scrapers or waterfalls; the choreography hot-wired for excess.     

The company has fun and the audience have fun in a collective whoop-de-doo. ‘Rock the Ballet’ with its interchangeable format, accommodates different playlists for different towns; MSG. It is high-octane, high-calibre, but as long-lasting as a sugar rush...... 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Antony and Cleopatra, The Globe: Eve Best, Clive Wood, directed by Jonathan Munby

Rome, after Julius Ceasar, is ruled by a triumvirate: Lepidus, Octavius Caesar and Mark Antony; united by hatred for their common enemy Pompey. Antony, distracted by Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, is recalled to Rome as Pompey’s popularity increases, and his wife, Fulvia dies. Thus ensues scenes of hostilities and counter-hostilities in which Shakespeare plays out a real-politik for the beloved, but dead Queen Elizabeth, and the emergent Jacobean dynasty, led by James VI of Scotland. 

Cleopatra (Eve Best) is an idealised figurehead, standing for everything exotic and other. In director Jonathan Munby’s resourceful production she eats fruit and is dressed in loose-flowing white and gold. Best’s tan and hair, all sun-kissed highlights, suggest Essex Laddette, but in this outlandishness are the seeds of a very British kind of Zenophobia. Where Rome is civil, Egypt is not; where governance is sober and male; sensuality is female. 

There's a touch of the Swash-Buckler to Best's Cleopatra, which takes some getting used to; more Pirates-of-the-Carribean Elizabeth Swann than Kohl-lined Elizabeth Taylor. Best's triumph is in the second half, matched by a superior Clive Wood, where the tenor of the drama demands a coherent presentation. 'I dreamt of Antony' is delivered in a deliberate low-key.

The gallows humour at the drama's critical point is audacious. If the play’s message is about accommodating desire, like Euripides’ The Bacchae, then it sits uncomfortably with the deaths of Cleopatra’s retinue at the end. Yet it is erroneous to review exclusively with 21st century eyes; best to ‘keep yourself within yourself.’ Maybe Antony and Cleopatra is just a play about an old queen and a new king.

Yet Shakespeare’s lines burgeon with passion and poetry: Enobarbus’ extended ship metaphor as he describes Cleopatra ’age cannot wither her’ or Cleopatra’s of Antony ‘his legs bestrid the ocean’ or the waspish description of Octavia as ‘dull-tongued and dwarfish.’ In these instances The Globe is the most perfect place to be; communally held moments for a playwright ‘unparalleled.’