|Alastair Marriott - Connectome - Royal Ballet, 2014 - photo Bill Cooper|
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 6 2015
Design and choreography to the fore in contemporary double bill
Raven Girl was choreographer Wayne McGregor's first narrative dance piece, produced in collaboration with the writer and illustrator Audrey Niffenegger, with music by Gabriel Yared and designed by Vicki Mortimer. We caught the first performance of Royal Ballet's recent revival of the work at Covent Garden on 6 October 2015 in a double bill with Alastair Marriott's Connectome to music by Arvo Pärt designed by Es Devlin and Jonathan Howells. In Raven Girl, Edward Watson was the Postman, Olivia Cowley was the Raven, Sarah Lamb as Raven Girl, Paul Kay was the Boy and Thiago Soares was the Doctor. Connectome featured Lauren Cuthbertson, Steven McRae and Edward Watson. Koen Kessels conducted the Royal Opera House Orchestra.
|Wayne MacGregor Raven GirlSarah Lamb|
photo Johann Persson
Composer Gabriel Yared, who is best known for his film scores (from Betty Blue to The English Patient), wrote the specially commissioned score which mixed a live orchestra with electronics to striking effect. The result was eclectic, moving from some strikingly edgy sounds where you could not tell what was live and what electronic. But Raven Girl is quite a dark tale, given quite a stark look by the designs and lighting, and it seemed that Gabriel Yared's music did not always match this. Too often he produced something softer edged, veering to the popular which had me reaching for that lazy description 'film music'.
McGregor's choreography was superb for the crowds, the weird faceless people, the ravens in their stunning costumes. And some individual solos were striking. Edward Watson as the Postman was wonderfully all edgy elbows and joints. Sarah Lamb looking stunning as the Raven Girl both with and without her wings, giving a truly mesmerising performance
But a sense of character seemed missing in places, the Doctor (Thiago Soares) and the Boy (Paul Kay) were underdeveloped despite both performers giving strong individual performances. And at the end all problems evaporated in a mysterious fashion and we had a final pas de deux for Sarah Lamb and Eric Underwood as the Raven Prince (a characters who had not previously featured in the plot). Here both Wayne MacGregor and Gabriel Yared seemed to struggle to find the right language to suite the rest of the piece.
|Wayne MacGregor Raven Girl - Edward Watson|
photo Johann Persson
Raven Girl was paired with Connectome, the 2014 ballet by Alastair Marriott to music by Arvo Pärt (Fratres, Vater Unser, Silouans Song, Wenn Bach Bienen gezuchet hatte). This is a 30 minute plot-less ballet inspired by the ideas surrounding the iring of our brain cells, our 'connectome'.
Again the designs by Es Devlin (sets), Jonathan Howells (costumes), Bruno Poet (lighting) and Luke Halls (video) were strong, stunning in fact, with a sense of real identity and sets which involved the dancers being amongst them. Jonathan Howells costumes were revealing, sexy and close-fitting with more than a little suggestion that the cast were doing the show in their underwear.
But Alastair Marriott's choreography had its own powerful inner core, his varied couplings for the seven dancers (Lauren Cuthbertson, Steven McRae, Edward Watson, Luca Acri, Matthew Ball, Tomas Mock and Marcelino Sambe) were highly developed in their own right. I could see a clear lineage through Kenneth Macmillan to Frederick Ashton's plotless ballets, with a similar feel for the choreographic form.
We went to the double bill for Raven Girl, seduced by the designs, but came away with Connectome firmly fixed in our brains.
Elsewhere on this blog:
- Delightful discovery: Marcello Psalms from Voces8 - Cd review
- Gripping: Bellini's I Puritani in Cardiff - Opera review
- Serious Drama: Handel's Orlando in Cardiff - opera review
- Hear the message: Bob Chilcott's The Angry Planet - CD review
- The lute song re-invented: Amores Pasados, from John Potter, Anna Maria Friman, Jacob Heringman and Ariel Abramovich - Cd review
- Through a romantic lens: Hideko Udagawa in baroque repertoire - Cd review
- Festival finale: King's College Choir & Stephen Cleobury in Mozart's Requiem at Hatfield House - concert review
- On Thrilling Form: English National Opera in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensek - opera review
- London International A Cappella Choir Competition: Heat 2 at St John's Smith Square - concert review
- New orchestra, new concert hall: I chat to Laurence Equilbey about Accentus, Insula and La Cité musicale départementale de l'Ile de Seguin - interview
- Red Note Ensemble: Entangled Fortunes, music of John McLeod - CD review
- Post-Freudian opera: Pierre Bartholomee's Oedipe sur la route - Cd review
- Celebrating 10 years: Stile Antico - Cd review
- Intimate and inward: Mahler songs from Anne Schwanewilms - CD review
- Remarkable engagement between artist and role: Juan Diego Florez in Gluck's Orphee et Eurydic - Opera review
- Building on the Schubert Project: My encounter with Oxford Lieder Festival founder Sholto Kynoch - interview