The day after: thoughts on the Royal Ballet’s Frankenstein

Much has been said about Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein, by myself and others more eloquent than me, yet I can’t help but add a bit more to all that has come before, because never have I been so captivated by a ballet that I’m still thinking about it the day after. Nor have I ever felt compelled to watch a ballet again – on the morning after my first viewing, no less – just so that I can relive the emotions that gripped me in my favourite scenes.

The print reviews of Scarlett’s first full length ballet were critical. Granted, not all are unfair – many sections involving the corps can be trimmed and tightened, especially the tavern scene and the start of Act III. There should be more of the Creature, and there could be more creativity in the childhood scenes between Victor and Elizabeth.

But that’s where my agreement with the critics ends.

I didn’t find the production messy, nor was the narrative poor. In fact, while some reviewers felt that the ballet didn’t do justice to Mary Shelley’s novel, I thought that the ballet was vastly superior.  The novel might have been bold and ground-breaking in its day, but to this modern reader it was draggy.

The book was practically an extended whinge from the snivelling, weak, self-absorbed, cowardly and utterly dislikeable Victor Frankenstein, interspersed by brief appearances from other (insipid) characters and beautiful prose from the Creature. In contrast, the ballet’s emphasis on some lesser characters from the novel made for a more compelling story.

The set was spectacular and the costumes were luxurious too – the flowing, flare skirts were especially captivating.  Although Lowell Liebermann’s score was criticised by some, I thought it suited the ballet well, lending it dramatic and gothic effect while allowing the dancing to take centre stage. Additional sound effects were also used well and made me jump in my seat twice – much to the amusement of a friend who sniggered the first time and laughed aloud the second.

My favourite parts, though, were the various pas de deux throughout the ballet. The dancing between Victor and Elizabeth was sublime – a blend of innocent love, hesitation and playfulness in the first act, and a mixture of hesitation, desperation and passion in the second.

The beauty of Victor and Elizabeth is nothing against the riveting climax of Act III, however, as the last two pas de deux in Frankenstein were so utterly intense and that THEY TOTALLY MADE THE SHOW. It’s not an exaggeration – I will watch Frankenstein in its entirety again just for its final minutes.

For I was there, on the edge of my seat, gripped in horror and my heart in my mouth as Elizabeth was faced with the Creature – I felt her fear and repulsion as it was expressed on every inch of her face and every bone in her body.  Then, in the stand-off between Frankenstein and the Creature, there was so much hate, anger and – at the same time – an intense desire for love that I was overwhelmed by the anguish of the Creature in the closing moments.

Would I feel this way if the ballet were performed by a different cast? I don’t know – but Laura Morera’s arms are beautifully fluid and elegant and Frederico Bonelli deserved much credit for his acting as I was ready to throttle his trembling, scared face in Act III (I really despise Victor Frankenstein). As for Steven McRae, his portrayal of the Creature was grotesque yet pathetic – and who can complain about the revealing costume which featured the entirety of a muscular leg and ridiculously toned ass?

So go – read the critics’ reviews but catch Frankenstein anyway. Twitter was full of praise after last night’s live cinema relay, so watch it and decide for yourself. I certainly think that this was a most wonderful ballet and Liam Scarlett’s best work yet.

 

 

 

 

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