Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Everybody Loves Raymonda

I'm currently held hostage by a particularly threatening bout of jetlag, and those who've done the London-Melbourne 24-hourer will know the mental quicksand one's brain must wade through to come up with a coherent sentence post-return. I was hoping last night's opening of the new Australian Ballet show Raymonda would be a rip-cord to yank me up out of this, but alas, it wasn't quite the case. One thing is certain, though: it really does live up to its name, most definitely featuring a character named Raymonda.

It turns out that this particular number was first created way back in 1898, when cavemen were just discovering fire. You wouldn't know it from this production, however; guest choreographer Stephen Baynes has turned the original into a homage to Grace Kelly and the Golden Age of Hollywood. It's an easy fit: the screen goddess of the title becomes engaged to a handsome European Prince, goes to live in his lovely land (with notably less casinos than Monaco, though) but has doubts on her wedding night and dreams about dancing with hot dudes in sleazy bars. Pretty much your average kitchen sink drama then, you know, like a Ken Loach film or something.

But I was disappointed to find that it didn't live up to all the hype. I mean, I was really looking forward to this. The pre-press sounded great, and the whole Hollywood angle had me about as excited as if they'd said the next AB production would feature giant robots duking it out over Tokyo.

The cast were excellent, especially Kirsty Martin as Raymonda, who actually creates a character and delivers some expression and an emotional journey. Ray also being played by Lisa Bolte and Rachel Rawlins, and I would have liked to see Rawlins give it a burl since she really impressed me in La Sylphide.

The set was gorgeous, but there just wasn't enough of it. Often, we were given a few items of furniture and a simple backdrop, but that's it. Where were the lavish, glittering spectacles of The Sleeping Beauty or La Boheme? I guess this Prince was from one of those countries where the monarchy is just a lingering bunch of old freaks who still think people care that they're alive (like England or something).

The lighting was impressive, especially when Ray wakes up after her long, luscious dream (and as an aside, there was a genuinely funny moment when new hubby finds her sleeping and notices the empty liquor bottle next to her, giving a look which jovially suggests "Whoops, wifey's got substance abuse issues! Didn't see that coming!"). And costumes were fine, and music and stuff. But I didn't feel there was enough of anything here, the show going for subtlety and delicacy over big impact showstoppers.

You know, I suppose that's not really a criticism, is it? But when you're desperately trying to stay conscious and aware that your body thinks it's 12 hours past bedtime, subtlety and delicacy just don't work. Still, everybody else loved Raymonda.

Now when I get a chance, I'll be posting some stuff on my trip, just for friends and not the casual reader such as yourself who got here looking for pictures of Jean-Claude dancing or the tablature to Hello Dolly or the lyrics of a certain George Michael song.


Anonymous said...

Great to have you back! Looking forward to reading about your adventures, especially the ones involving the rusty bike and your own Long March.

Oh, and if you talk to Gen, tell her I'm waiting to hear from her. I've been out soliciting children on her behalf... ;-)

richardwatts said...

Tag, you're it!