I had operated my personal policy of ‘ I don’t do schools matinees’ for so long that I forgot the reason why- until I went to the debuts of Erina Takahashi and Vladislav Bubnov in Derek Deane’s production of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall. I was deafened by the noise, nearly knocked over by the excited running around of little people, couldn’t get a drink at the bar when I really needed one and the executive suit ended up wearing ribena and ice-cream. It takes the overture to stop my head aching.
You get involved – then suddenly you are faced with a dancers back
The overture ends abruptly with the stampede of the big waltz entrance. All the dancers are needed to fill the stage and it takes a little while to get used to the constant movement- you alternate between following the patterns to following an individual dancer. The pas de trois is now a wheel shaped pas de douze, there are 8 cygnets and 60 swans who constantly change their en face position to please various part of the auditorium. Unfortunately they cannot please all the people all the time,especially during the pas de deux when you are beginning to get involved then suddnely you are faced with the dancer’s back.
It takes Bubnov’s compelling stage prescence to bring Siegfried to life
The sheer size of the cast and performing space make it difficult to give this extravagant production more than the emotional depth of a bird bath. It takes Vladislav Bubnov’s compelling stage prescence and considerable acting talents to bring the Prince’s character to life without the usual Benno or friends to interact with. He remains alone to do the most beautiful adage not only showing superb balance and control but a wistful sadness.Takahashi looked thin and started nervously. She does the steps,doesn’t shirk the difficulties but despite Bubnov’s partnering from heaven and persistent efforts at breathing dramatic life into her - she fails to fully engage the audience when dressed in white. She is much better in black when she becomes a manipulative temptress and uses her face expressively. Act 3 is electric: he needs the space of the RAH to fly through his grand jetes, huge manege and flashy pirouettes.
The kids were as much a part of the show
Matinees especially those for schools are often overlooked but since they give kids a taste of live theatre – and are an important part of building new audiences for the future. They must be difficullt for the performers because they are facing an unpredictable yet spontaneous audience who are eager to get involved but who have the capacity to provide the most unsubtle customer feedback.!
There were some unexpected highlights, Siegfried’s mime of ‘I love you’ was anticipated and copied by half of the audience thanks to ENBs education outreach program. One bright spark loudly expressed his opinion that the Bolshoi trained principal had done it wrong ! They loved the entrance of Rothbart through the trapdoor, the dry ice, the fight with Siegfried and the avidly counted double fouettes. They didn’t applaud after the pas de deux which must have been disconcerting for the performers -instead at the end they gave them a huge cheer (louder than Sylvie Guillem got from the piazza performance of Romeo and Juliet last month) and deafening feet stamping.
It was a lovely afternoon getting an insight to what it is like seeing a show through the eternally fascinated and curious eyes of a child.