A mixture of the magnificent and the mediocre, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s short stint at the Coliseum kicked off last night with a double bill of works by Fredrick Ashton in a performance of Spring Passions.
Think Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with added pirates and less barn dancing and you’ve got a good visual of last nights opening work Daphnis and Chloe. A sickly sweet tale of love lost and found, Ashton’s 1951 recreation of a Ballet Russes classic tells the story of the cloying Chloe (Elisha Willis) and her somewhat spineless lover Daphnis (Iain Mackay), who look to the help of the gods to be reunited. All ends well and some pretty enough dancing ensues.
While Daphnis and Chloe shares all the pastel shaded gaiety of Ashton’s more celebrated work, La Fille Mal Gardee (demonstrated in an outstanding Birmingham Royal Ballet performance at Sadlers Wells last October), it possesses none of its wit or tongue-in-cheek charm. Despite its opulent score and vibrant set the overall performance seemed muted, leaving a disappointing, even-I-could-have-managed-that kind of a feeling.
Turning the programme on its head, however, The Two Pigeons, performed by the irresistibly adorable Nao Sakuma and her charming counterpart Robert Parker, was alive with passion and personality.
Mesmerising and beautiful movement set against the most stunning of scenery, The Two Pigeons is a visual delight of a morally dubious tale. Our young male protagonist, Parker, gets itchy feet and runs off to satisfy his more exotic tastes, leaving his lover behind. It doesn’t work out so he returns with his tail between his legs and a white pigeon in his arms and miraculously all is forgiven.
Despite an underwhelming start to the evening, following The Two Pigeons lead, we too choose to forgive and forget and wait with anticipation to see this characterful company perform Coppelia at the Coliseum later this week.
By Jennifer Teale