Scottish Ballet: Stravinsky ****
Theatre Royal, Glasgow
When the company delivers something traditional, those favouring a more modern approach are left wanting, while the pointe shoe and tutu-lovers feel cheated if there’s not a narrative and heavy costuming on offer. Both get their fix here.
Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Le Baiser de la Fée (The Fairy’s Kiss) was first created for the Royal Ballet in 1960, and has rarely been performed since. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ice Maiden, it’s a fairytale but with a barbed edge.
A young man, kissed by the eponymous sprite as an infant, falls under her spell once more – only this time it’s on the eve of his wedding, with a fiancée in tow.
Andrew Peasgood shines as the puzzled would-be groom, torn between the woman he loves and the creature he’s inexplicably drawn to. Designer Gary Harris, too, has done a superb job re-staging the work, with his clever, cottage-like frames dangling high above the action.
It is in the ensemble moments, however, when audiences really get what they came for. Beautifully synchronised pointe work, high leaps and gorgeous costumes. Will it set the pulse racing? Unlikely – but that’s what the second half is for.
First, a shout out to the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, led by the strong hand of guest conductor, Jean-Claude Picard. We heard Stravinsky in the first half, but his once controversial 1913 work, The Rite of Spring, saw the orchestra swell in rank.
And if the incredible wall of sound emanating from the pit grabs you by the throat, the remarkable choreography of Christopher Hampson takes no prisoners either.
Set on a sculpted white stage, with just three performers, the piece has a brutality that borders on shocking. Two brothers, played here with unremitting energy by Christopher Harrison and Constant Vigier, are locked in a power imbalance that borders on bullying, which, halfway through when Harrison changes into fatigues and jackboots, takes a sinister turn into violent indoctrination.
Into this highly male space walks Sophie Martin – a dancer whose presence is never anything less than captivating – to personify ‘Faith’ and ‘Death’. Her cool exterior burns even hotter than the brothers’ heated exchange, and we’re left feeling charged, troubled and blown away by the brilliance of it all.