Wednesday, 12 October 2016

'La Fille Mal Gardee' at the Royal Opera House

This evening we went to see Frederick Ashton's 'La Fille Mal Gardee' (or 'The Wayward Daughter') performed by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, a first for me and I know nothing about the ballet. But I soon fell in love with its charm, its sheer Englishness and its energetic dancing. Dancing chickens, a maypole, clog dancing and a pony and trap, it's all in there and bursting with the joy of a fruitful autumn harvest. And we were lucky to have Steven McRea and Natalia Osipova as our principals, the lovers.

It's the tale of Lise who loves Colas but her mother wants her to marry Alain. Our happy-go-lucky hero and heroine naturally end up together but its how they get there that's the interesting stuff. Or maybe it's the romantic and energetic dancing?

The tone is set right at the start with dawn starting with the cockerel and chickens doing a mad dance before Lise emerges for her morning chores. And that's when we first meet her daft mother, played by Thomas Whitehead in his best pantomime dame drag and big bum. He's really very good at the comic dancing and being the ultimate foil for the lovers who eventually blesses them. He's also pretty fab at the clog dance with four of the milk maids - how on earth do they go up on tippy in clogs? That was astonishing!

The ballet is full of the English season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, starting in the farmyard of Lise's mother before heading out into the glorious fields for the harvest and the post-harvest celebrations (oddly, with a Spring Maypole) before ending with an Autumn storm. I loved the storm scene, with the cast being blown hither and thither on the stage with lightning shooting down and gusts of blustery rain. It was very effective and who could have imagined what happened to Alain just as the curtain dropped to close the first half (and I'm not going to tell you, but it was a great surprise).

The second half is set in the farmhouse when Lise and Colas meet again and Alain comes to claim his bride. Of course, our lovers win the day (but I won't say how) and are finally blessed by Lise's mother.

There's lots more to the story but you need to see it for yourself. It's not the most complex of ballet's but it's really enjoyable and draws you into it. I realised I was smiling ear-to-ear half-way through the first half at the sheer joy of seeing the performance. It lightens the spirits and makes you happy. That's the point surely?

Needless to say, I loved it. What's not to love? Both principals had their turn at doing the spinning round and round and round and round thing, endlessly spinning, arms and legs flying out and perfectly controlled to make us all gasp and applaud. Wonderful solos and duets and the ensemble pieces were marvellous too, all synchronised and perfect. And, of course, we had the fun of Peregrine the Pony (my new favourite ballet dancer) doing his dance steps as well.

I loved this show. Great dancing, marvellous story-telling, excellent sets, costumes and lighting - what more could one want? I enthusiastically joined in the clapping at the end and it was lovely to see this photo of Steven and Natalia taking their bows at the end of the show (tweeted by Steven McRea).  Enjoy the rest of the run people, you bring us joy!

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