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White Rock Theatre - Antony Mair

Vienna Festival Ballet at the White Rock Theatre

The White Rock Theatre is not a mainstream cultural haven, being given over mostly to musical events at the lower end of the highbrow scale, alternating with stand-up comedy.  But we went along to see the Vienna Festival Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty last night, on the basis that classical music needs to be supported, writes Antony Mair .

If the intention was good, I’m afraid we didn’t carry it out fully, leaving in the interval.  Forgive me for being naïve, but I’d foolishly imagined that this troupe came from Vienna.  But no – the Viennese connection stems solely from their founder Peter Mallek, who happens to be Austrian.  The company is based in the UK.  Disappointment No. 1.  As so often happens with budget productions, the music was recorded – Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score was reduced to a syrup of ill-defined sounds coming out of giant speakers.  The costumes were so clearly made of thin synthetic fabrics that I was surprised the static didn’t interfere with the sound system.

What of the dancers?  well, they did their best.  I felt they were ill-served by a stage design inspired by Rose’s chocolate boxes, and a choreographer who had simplified Petipa’s original: the turns were slowed down, the jumps (forgive my ignorance of the proper terminology) got them off the ground, but only just.  In the place of energy in the dancing, we had a lot of smiling: smiles fixed so hard on the dancers’ faces that they became more like a grimace as time wore on.  The corps de ballet comprised eight girls, four approaching beanpole status and four diminutive and predominantly Oriental.  Teeth were in full evidence, and in one or two cases an orthodontist would have had a field day.  The Queen perched on a rudimentary throne at the side, paying no attention to the dancers but displaying the obligatory smile.  The wicked fairy Carabosse did quite a good impression of Tracey Emin on point.

There’s only so much saccharine one can take, and I’m afraid we had had enough by the interval.  If Hastings wants to get its coveted award as City of Culture it’s going to have to do better than this.  As for Vienna Festival Ballet: I suggest they ditch the classics, get a decent choreographer and some musicians on stage and join the twenty-first century.  Classical ballet doesn’t have to be this dilute mishmash of tinsel and sugar: Kenneth MacMillan showed us that fifty years ago.

Republished with kind permission from ‘Postcards from Hastings‘.


Posted 10:38 Saturday, Apr 13, 2013 In: Performance

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