If you've been past the Bow Street entrance to the Royal Opera House lately you'll have seen Royal Ballet principal dancer Edward Watson smouldering gingerly in a full face poster shot, stating:
Meet Ed. Fact: When he's dancing, pound for pound, he's stronger than a rhino. Superheroes really do wear tights.
You see what the Opera House is doing? It's sexing up. In your face! To underpin its efforts at drawing in new audiences above stairs, below stairs things are also hotting up (cue edgy publicity shot right).
FIRSTS showcases "some of the most exciting and innovative artists working in the UK today". This means mixed bills with a splash of hip-hop, slices of Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) with a contemporary twist, a dash of circus, light sprinklings of radical opera, a soupcon of experimental performance and a shadowy dose of puppetry. There's also half-time juggling and after-hours music. It's a positive melange of cross-cutting and trendy art forms bundled together and flogged at a knock down rate.
FIRSTS is targeted at a young and trendy audience, the likes of which the Linbury Studio has probably never seen before. That said, we can only applaud the stuffy old House's efforts to break through some of its more constrictive traditions and, cynicism aside, all tickets are £5 and all acts are top quality. Now that's a marketing ploy that just might work as well as Ed in tights.
FIRSTS 2007 runs from 20-28 November with 3 different mixed bills at the Linbury Studio, downstairs at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Performances starts at 7.45pm and the bar remains open after the show for music and drinking. Call the Box Office on 020 7304 4000 or book online. FIRSTS is sponsored by the Helen Hamlyn Trust.