Yes, there were a few ribbon mishaps. Yes, Peregrine nearly brought down the backcloth and nearly killed two members of the cast in doing so, and yes Lesley Collier is right about Natalia Osipova’s port de bras, still a little Bolshoi and not yet 100% Ashton, but by goodness, I don’t quite care really, when the rest is as charming and lovely as this was.
If anything, cinema enriched the experience. Small details presented themselves: Christopher Saunders’ Thomas, and his reaction to Alain’s silly topknot of hair; Alain’s silly facial expressions, and the glory that is Natalia Osipova in full height of her dramatic and technical powers.
Real tears threatened to fall down her cheeks in the pre-mime sequence, when Simone leaves her daughter locked away, Osipova’s acting working well in close up, and I am sure, further into the house. Each thought colours her face, without any hint of affectation or dissimulation. As a result of her acting, her Lise was a picture of ebullience and devil-may-care. Married to steps polished off with well-disguised, apparent ease, this was once again not Natalia Osipova we saw, but Lise herself, the whole summing up to “delightful”. In the interval interview Osipova said “I can be myself” in this role, and it shows.
If Osipova was Lise primus inter pares (at least for me!) Steven McRae was perhaps still “only” Steven McRae (but rather he, than for example me, who would make Alain appear a Nureyev…) When Lise tries to hide Colas in the chest of drawers, Muntagirov was delightfully silly and actually puts his leg in, trying to climb in briefly. McRae instead kicks it shut, hard. I know which boy I’d prefer my daughter to court!
Physically, again in the first “bottle” variation, McRae seemed a little tired. Muntagirov speaks elsewhere of his own need to pace himself. From what I read, Ashton grants little concession to fatigue, I gather that some dances must be taken until the legs are numb. Little concession either to pure dance: those dastardly ribbons must be a real nightmare, even after practicing. Thus Osipova’s fist “throw” of the ribbon was a little late, the “cat’s cradle” pas de deux had a recalcitrant and very noticeable knot that pleaded for Gordian intervention (or at least for its magical vanishing). Where line is everything, a Lise hoisted high with a ribbon “bellybutton” was a bit of a shame. Nerves. Live theatre, and nothing more, and nothing horribly bad.
Paul Kay‘s Alain was a joy, close up and very touching. In addition, I had not noticed before that he is menaced by the cock in the storm scene. Where before I had thought his Alain very good from afar, in the cinema it was something of a revelation.
Superlatives spilled from those around me. A ninety four year-old woman celebrating her birthday exclaimed how wonderful it was. And she was right. “Amazing!” “so good” “wonderful!”. Praise upon praise, applause and whoops in my local picture house. The “ribbon carousel” scene alone was worth every penny of my ticket. A smile rarely left my face. Bravi to the Royal Ballet, for giving us such a gorgeous slice of sunshine and with such joy and happiness.