The ballet contains extraordinarily intense pas de deux, as well as exuberant crowd scenes and meaty roles for a number of characters.
Manon must express all the contradictions of passionate first love betrayed by a greater love for luxury, and her subsequent descent into dissolution and despair.
Her lover, the penniless poet Des Grieux, must show passion and selfless love to the point of sacrificing his own future for the sake of Manon’s.
Her drunken, dissolute brother Lescaut, who shameless pimps her out to rich nobles, is another demanding role requiring the ability to communicate comedy and revulsion in equal measure.
Monsieur GM, the rich old man who buys Manon and exhibits her like a trophy around the salons of demi-monde Paris, is an important character role and hard to get right.
English National Ballet currently has a very strong group of principals, lead principals and soloists. Lead Principal Isaac Hernández, a highly technical, very expressive dancer and a fabulous partner, should give us an outstanding Des Grieux; among Manons to look forward to are the hugely affecting Alina Cojucaru, and the charismatic Canadian Jurgita Dronina.
The only possible let down is the production itself. London audiences are more used to The Royal Ballet’s version of Manon, with its sumptuous colourful designs and elaborate sets that seek faithfully to recreate the period, from the gambling dens of Paris to the bayous of Lousiana.
However, English National Ballet’s Manon uses the rather more austere Mia Stensgaard designs (originally created for the Royal Danish Ballet's production), which are so minimalist they’re practically abstract. Costumes are primarily black and white, with just the odd touch of colour.
This means the dancing has nowhere to hide; but with the company on top form, English National Ballet’s Manon should be well worth seeing.
|What||English National Ballet, Manon, London Coliseum|
|Where||London Coliseum, WC2N 4ES | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
16 Jan 19 – 20 Jan 19, 19:30 Mats Thu, Sat, Sun 14:30 Dur.: 2 hours 40 minutes incl 2 intervals
|Price||£12-£65 (plus booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via the Coliseum|