Pros: Excitingly dramatic and beautifully danced.
Cons: The swapping of characters is slightly confusing at times, but that aside, few cons for this one.
As part of Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration, Yorke Dance Project have collaborated with original notator Jane Elliot and MacMillan’s widow, Deborah, to revive Sea of Troubles, initially created as a short ballet in 1988. With its intimate nature, the ballet is beautifully suited to the equally intimate Clore Studio, housed at the top of the glorious Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
The ballet is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and certainly oozes the same overt drama throughout. I have to confess that I was not familiar enough with the original play to have been able to recognise the characters, and just as I was beginning to get some kind of idea of them, the dancers seemed to switch characters, certainly keeping us all on our toes. That said, the company all have superb acting abilities.
Sea of Troubles takes the form of a series of short episodes which are sewn together seamlessly and interspersed momentarily by short blackouts. The six dancers, three men and three women, play the characters of Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude, Claudius, The Ghost of Hamlet, and Polonius; even though it is not always clear who is who, they give exceptional performances throughout. Amy Thake is just beautiful in which ever role she plays; her faultless technique, coupled with a remarkable sense of musicality and undeniable stage presence, demands the audience’s attention without overshadowing her fellow dancers. Freya Jeffs and Daisy West are also wonderful; Jeffs is elegant and poised, while West is more virtuous and feisty. The men, Edd Mitton, Jordi Calpe-Serrats and former Rambert dancer Jonathon Goddard, are equally well cast, delivering a balance of great power and alluring expression.
While the content of this ballet is full-bodied and at times gritty, the setting is stark. All that appears with the dancers on stage is a single piece of light coloured tapestry, neither used, nor out of place, and the brilliant musicians who echo the drama fluidly. York Dance Project has created a masterful re-staging of Macmillan’s short ballet and I would highly recommend it as a worthwhile watch, whether you are familiar with Hamlet or not.
Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan
Music: Anton Webern, Bohuslav Martinu
Artistic Director: Yolande Yorke-Edgell
Designer: Deborah Macmillan
Staging: Susie Crow
Booking Until: 1st November 2017
Box office: 020 7304 4000
Online Booking: roh.org.uk