It's been all fun and games...
Monday evening was fun; "The Winter's Tale" makes a terrific ballet, although the "game of two halves" tendency of the play was if anything emphasised by the transformation to a purely visual medium. More of that anon.
Thinking of anons, I seem to have pissed-off my anon from the weekend. Sorry, cryptic outside-over-there person! Not knowing who you are kind of throws me, because you clearly know who I am. Try and put yourself in my shoes, and consider how discombobulating that feels. I'm happy you seem to have liked my poem & I'm touched that you responded positivly to it. But I have to be honest; it was written as a response to seeing someone I know walk by looking tired and low. One particular person. Now you seem to be taking it personally, and I don't know if you're that person or not; Again, significant discombobulation here. I hate not knowing things; makes me feel really inadequate...
So, I'm sorry if I didn't react the way you wanted. It's probably good for me to feel inadequate, though. Challenging.
A good few things are challenging just now. The new ticketing and database system continues to be challenging, bless its digital cotton socks. We had server issues for large parts of yesterday, which was certainly bl**dy challenging, and reminded me just how painfully dependent we all are on computers these days. Today we had a fire alarm, and it wasn't a drill. In fact it turned out to be a complete mystery; so everyone was kept outside the office for a good thirty or forty minutes while it was investigated. Thirty-forty minutes I could really have used in the office...
At least it was a pleasant afternoon. There was patchy sun, a fresh mild breeze, goldfinches singing in the trees and big, blowsy golden peonies in bloom. Compared with some fire alarms I have known, that was okay, I have to say.
Worst fire alarm I've ever been in was a time when I was modelling for an evening class. In November. As the saying goes, less said about that, the better.
Then when we were allowed back into the building I got sabotaged in my attempts to do a simple job by the fact I couldn't get it done because something wasn't doing what I expected it to. Couldn't crack it for the life of me. Had to email The Man With The Answers about fifteen times in a row, which was both challenging and plain bl**dy embarrassing. I dislike bothering busy people. That inadequacy thing, again; I feel I ought to be able to fix my own sodding problems.
And then when The Man had fixed that problem, I got a different problem and had to give up on the whole thing. As it was I didn't leave work till six pm. Ah well, tomorrow is another day.
Back to "Winter's Tale".
Firstly; what a cast, what a staging, what amazing choreography! Between Sicilia and Bohemia the whole physical language changes; so that the first is angular, frontal and formal, full of clenched fists, Graham-technique feet and gripping hands, and the second is all flowing lines and chain dances, leaping and springing and lightness of movement and gesture.
The storytelling is marvellously clear (& scrapping Autolycus makes for a sharper and more fairy-tale-like plot, which works better in ballet). The homoerotic quality of Leontes' and Polixenes' love for one another is pointed up gently but not over-emphasised - so that one can see Leontes' rage and jealousy are as much over his friend - and first love - as over his wife and second love - but it wasn't egged to the point (which I've seen done on stage) of implying he's never really cared about Hermione in the first place and has only made a marriage of convenience for the sake of getting an heir. I loved the way it's shown that, his madness once over, Leontes is practically a broken man; dependent on Paulina, almost helpless at her behest and physically literally in her hands. The parallels between Leontes' jealousy in the first half and Polixenes rage in the second were brought out perfectly, too. It's that sort of thing that storytelling through physical language can sometimes do almost better than words.
But ooh, I'm on dangerous territory there; inferring that Shakespeare's words could be bettered if removed is hardly a good line to take! I can see that argument taking me swiftly off the edge of a precipice if I try to follow it.
I guess it just shows yet again the infinite variability and flexibility of the stories and characters he gave us, though, that they can be retold and reborn even without the text itself, and still come absolutely true...
All the cast are pitch-perfect (though the programme note that says something like "Leontes remarks on Florizels ressemblance to Polixenes" had us all giggling naughtily - ah yes, the ginger tom takes one look at his dark-haired friend's extremely ginger son and that's what he thinks?). The six principals were all excellent as were rest of the cast, right down the batting order. In particular Edward Watson's Leontes was terrifying in his insanity, bending and writhing like a sea-creature or a giant multi-jointed invertebrate; and then tragic in his grief, weak and broken in spirit in the aftermath.
I'm always happy to see Gary Avis given a decent role, and as Perdita's adoptive father he gets to be both a solid dancer, leading off folk dances and proving he can still partner most of the fellows off the map, and also a gentle and truthful actor. Valentino Zucchetti was a stunning Clown; please, someone, anyone, give this chap more to do, and stretch him, let him get his teeth into more and more. He has an astonishingly elastic jump, tremendous footwork, and a frisky, charming, insouciant stage presence. I can't wait for the day they give him Lescaut to do...
The whole Bohemia scene is simply lovely; where everything in Sicilia was trammelled and tight, and love could only be expressed with small gestures and taking care not to overstep the marks of good manners, suddenly here we get the happy innocent tenderness of young love, the affectionate sibling joshing between Perdita and Clown, the solid loving paternal strength of the father shepherd and all the cheerful flirting and falling-for and delighting of the festival crowd. Every gesture is suddenly wide-open and free, the lifts are big, the footwork bounding and stomping and joyously natural.
And it looks tremendous, too. The designs are gorgeous; clean plain colours, plus sober black, grey and white, in Sicilia, and rich tapestried patterns everywhere in Bohemia, where hems are embroidered or fringed, fabrics brocaded, cushions painted and everything imaginable decorated.
Joby Talbot's score is further evidence that he's become the ballet composer who should be at the top of every list today. It's less gallumphing than his "Alice" score, richer and subtler and more shimmering; it reminded me of Prokofiev's "Cinderella" and Henze's "Ondine", and one really can't give much higher praise than that.
Problems? The animatronic baby is bl**dy creepy (one almost couldn't blame Leontes for being freaked out by it) and the bear pursuing Ben Gartside's kind-hearted Antigonus is a bit odd; not as theatrically effective as I'd hoped Covent Garden, with the resources at its disposal, could rustle up. Darcy Bussell, presenting from backstage (I love backstage stuff!) was wearing a garment with a collar apparently studded with jelly-tots; very distracting... But that's about all I can find to nitpick over. The final scenes had me in tears. The lovers' plea to Leontes; his humbling himself to help them and his reconcilliation with Polixenes; the little touch of the father shepherd being greeted honourably by the kings... Paulina's recognition scene was simple and perfect (my goodness can Zenaida Yanowsky act when she's given the chance) and then Hermione's restoration and duet with Leontes, and the reunion with her daughter, were sad and painful and noble; emotional truth at its clearest.
And now I must go to bed, and be ready for another little wrestle with my new database and ticketing system tomorrow. I want to learn to drive this thing properly. I will not be defeated by my tools.