This was another delightful Fille, courtesy of principals Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae. Naturally the setting – a pure ray of sunshine fit to warm the heart – contributed, and so did strong corps work too.
Osipova’s Lise is charming in rustic vivacity. The pleasure from seeing her is twofold: there is her strength of technique (she is fast getting to grips with the demands of Ashton, but is perhaps not fully there yet) – and depth of characterisation. From the moment she burst out of the cottage door until the moment when she was lifted over the threshold as Mrs Colas, she fairly enchanted. Never did I imagine that the simple act of climbing up/down stairs could be magical, nor would I have thought that the moment when Lise tries to see if her mother is asleep could have held me quite so spellbound. Little moments revealed the intelligence of her portrayal. Expressions of pique, “strop” and puppy love played right to the back of the amphitheatre. Closer scrutiny with binoculars only revealed greater subtleties and investment, commitment. This was Lise.
To me, Mr McRae was a little more McRae than he was Colas. He still carries
himself somewhat in the manner of a Siegfried, and as a result, his Colas comes across a little like a Prince slumming it: declassé for the day. He has a little too much flash for a farm boy. There was a tinge too much chutzpah perhaps, and not quite enough air of “country bumpkin” coming through, especially in the first striding “thumbs-in-braces” opening of his first variation.
Of course, one must not imagine that a role can always subjugate dancer to its dance, this is after all why balletomanes watch multiple performances, to see how close to imagined
ideal any dancer might come, and to see variation within presentation, illumination from difference, glints of that ideal.
This is all just preference though: McRae’s lithe athleticism informs all he does. This athleticism produces wonderful effects, but I felt that his “bottle variation” was a little less secure than he might normally achieve. Near the end, I even thought he might have twinged a muscle perhaps. That said, his first (unnoticed) leap was marvellous, and his reaction, very funny, as were the foiled kisses and moments of frustrated affection.
This Colas wassn’t some strapping farm-hand used to carrying tuns and tilling the soil, rather he strikes me more as a boy from a well-to-do landowner, given to reading under trees, rambles in nature etc.
This Fille’s real landowner’s son (Paul Kay) has even since last
time I saw him grown into the role. Still present is the Ashtonian quicksilver – and pantomime ineptitude, his first off kilter moment drawing a gasp from the lady next to me who feared he’d topple over! Still present is his aversion to falling down stairs (sensible) but also present is Kay’s presentation of Alain not as simple buffoon, but as a figure to be pitied. To make Alain touching isn’t easy, but Kay succeeds.
As a couple Osipova and McRae work well together. Chemistry doesn’t quite scintillate as with Nunez and Acosta (I doubt many partnerships could!) yet we believe that they are sweethearts. The brief “door” pas de deux if it may be called that, was wonderfully done, all swoons and tendresse and the matrimonial grand pas was full of requisite joy.
Most of the appeal in these moments was generated by Osipova herself (Ashton’s mission accomplished). In lifts, lovely ballon, shape and carriage. In the ‘ribbon carousel’ a perfectly timed ribbon release at the musical climax, and a look of real unfeigned joy from our “Lise” at finding herself in such a magical moment, both lovely to see.
Actors like to say that comedy is easier than tragedy. Fille’s method is comedy throughout (this is hardly Mayerling) but a simple fixed smile won’t make the grade. And yet within this register of comedy, there was here unexpected revelation. True affection came through where I had not expected it: Lise and Simone felt like a real loving mother and daughter. Marriot was content to play Simone as a pantomime dame, which works of course, but Mosley‘s was a far subtler creature, his clog dance lots of fun of course, (I think one moment of “whoops” was genuine, as he nearly toppled over at his post-solo curtain call attempting a little clog-slide!) One received the impression from embraces, looks, glances, that Simone really cared deeply for this Lise, and from Lise (especially in the moment where she tries to get her mother to dance in Act II) this same affection. Truly touching to watch.
As Thomas, Gary Avis is peerless, as Notary, the man is unrecognisable. Compared side by side they would not seem to be the same man underneath. As ever, he is a delight to watch.
In summary, a joyful evening once more. The cinema broadcast will be the next and final time I call in to this village of arcadian bliss.