Tuesday, 24 May 2016

'Frankenstein' at the Royal Opera House

Last week we went to see the brand new full-length ballet 'Frankenstein' by Liam Scarlett, performed by the Royal Ballet. I've never seen any of his work before so this was an introduction. Rather than use the popular version of the Frankenstein story as shown in the films, this ballet goes back to the source material of Mary Shelley's book and takes its story from there. It takes a few liberties with purist story but it can't show the whole story and that's what makes the plot work.

The ballet opens with a child finding a new home with the Frankenstein's and growing up in that house with Victor, dancing all over the place it seems. The day comes for Victor to go to university to become a doctor like his father when his mother dies giving birth to his younger brother. Before he goes he pledges to marry Elizabeth. At the university he's a serious scholar, determined to find a way to prolong, and even create, life. The professor shows his students the power of electricity to re-animate an arm but Victor takes it one step forward and, in a spectacular scene, brings a corpse back to life and the Creature is made!

Realising what he's done, Victor flees back to his family home in a deep depression without realising that his creation has followed him and is hiding in the woods around the family home. Victor and the Creature meet and Victor rejects him. That's it for the Creature, rejection by his creator is more than he could bear so he takes revenge and kills, well, almost everyone. Finally, Victor and the Creature have a dance off and Victor isn't strong enough and commits suicide. The ballet ends with the Creature walking to the back of the stage dragging his creator's body behind him as the family home burns.

I really enjoyed this production, only the fifth time the ballet has been performed at Covent Garden. The story-telling was excellent, a nice flowing narrative, the costumes and staging were good and the music seemed to be just right, helping the flow of the story without getting in the way. My only slight criticism is that the choreography wasn't always as big, bold and dynamic as it could have been, such as the final dance between Victor and the Creature. Something a bit more athletic and vigorous would have suited the moment better. In any case, I liked Tristan Dyer as Victor, Sarah Lamb as Elizabeth and Ryoichi Hirano as the Creature. It was lovely to see Itziar Mendizabal as the Frankensteins' housekeeper but she didn't get much dancing, mainly stern striding and pointing.

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