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About the Change

Royal Ballet

MacMillan Bill: ‘The Judus Tree’, ‘Gloria’, ‘Danses concertantes’

April 2003
London, Covent Garden

© Jeffery Taylor
Former dancer, Critic and an Arts feature writer for the Sunday Express. Pub 04 05 2003

click for larger image / details ©

'Danses concertantes' reviews

'Judas Tree' reviews

'Gloria' reviews

Galeazzi in reviews

Morera in reviews

Mukhamedov in reviews

recent RB reviews

more Jeffery Taylor reviews

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What a fabulous feast of dance and dancing the Royal Ballet is currently offering from its heritage collection at Covent Garden. Spanning nearly four decades of the late Kenneth MacMillan's staggering choreographic output the programme is living proof that the English style is alive and well and still living at the Royal Ballet. And that in MacMillan Britain produced an immortal dance maker of world class and boundless proportions.

Invention and originality simply poured out of the man. Each piece he created had a unique language of its own, even in Danses concertantes, his first work for the company in 1955. Startling new ways of performing familiar classical ballet steps flow non-stop from start to finish while, rare in a beginner, the construction is tightly meshed, disciplined and strictly follows Igor Stravinsky's episodic and cool composition. It is a light piece of pure dancing, the designs by Nicholas Georgiadis suggesting oriental temple dancers letting their hair down but in a refined sort of way. The ever-improving Mara Galeazzi's natural glamour seems absolutely right; Johan Kobborg is as brilliant as ever while a little more confidence in Laura Morera will work wonders.

Last Tuesday brought a hugely popular return to the Opera House of Russian star Irek Mukhamedov in MacMillan's last work, created for Mukhamedov in 1992, The Judas Tree. Set in a nighttime building site in the shadow of Canary Wharf by Jock McFadyen, a male cast of 14, led by The Foreman Mukhamedov, focuses on, are shredded by lust and driven to murder by a solitary female, Mara Galeazzi's The Woman. It is about betrayal and guilt, both earned and assumed, and women as seen through the eyes of men.


Mara Galeazzi in MacMillan's 'The Judas Tree'
Photograph by Asya Verzhbinsky ©

MacMillan's is a fairly brutal and basic take on the battle of the sexes, disturbingly realised in Brian Elias's visceral commissioned score. Galeazzi, with the chalk white face of a geisha, is all things to all men, a tart in a cut away leotard, a victim, a lover and draped in her veiling, the Mother of God, while Mukhamedov is a thrashing, loud mouthed bully whose savage posturing kills her. He betrays his assistant, Edward Watson, to a bloody death with a kiss, then hangs himself. Is he Judas or Jesus, or is his executed assistant The Lamb? The Woman re-enters veiled and supplicatory, does the Virgin give and take life? Solving these juicy enigmas guarantees that the thrill of The Judas Tree continues well after the curtain falls.


MacMillan's 'Gloria'
Photograph by Asya Verzhbinsky ©

The programme closes with Gloria, MacMillan's 1980 tribute to the country's war dead to Francis Poulenc's soaring vocal setting of the Catholic liturgy. The stage is designer Andy Klunder's evocation of a World War I blue remembered battlefield, peopled by a ghostly lost generation in sad tin hats and mouldy cloth, their women anonymous wraiths in caps and shrouds. They mourn, they celebrate, they remember and regret, and just before they surrender to the abyss, they hope. Carlos Acosta and Inaki Urlezaga support Jaimie Tapper as MacMillan's focal point of faith and all three cut straight to the heart. Since September's start to the current season, Tapper has emerged as an artist of considerable depth. Previously classified as a toothy soubrette with a mega watt grin, she is turning in some riveting performances. Without the artifice of exaggerated facial expressions Tapper's body seems part of the music's harmony; mood and melody flow through her and perfectly express MacMillan's melancholy passion. But the company as a whole responds to the evening's demands with a confident, and satisfying, relish. If, for you, going to the theatre means a good night out, this meaty selection is just for you.

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