Radio and Juliet ★★★★★
McGregor + Mugler, bringing together Wayne McGregor’s postmodern choreography and Manfred Thierry Mugler’s designs, was billed as the main attraction of this unnamed triple bill, the second MuzArts presentation at the Coliseum in the space of a week.
In reality, McGregor + Mugler consisted of a mere 15 minutes of inconsequential camp, with uninspiring choreography and indifferent dancing by principal dancers Edward Watson, of the Royal Ballet, and Olga Smirnova of the Bolshoi – and who could blame them?
Encumbered by metallic accoutrements – helmets, arm- and leg-guards, and an over-decorated codpiece for Watson – their bodies encased in see-through glittery netting, and initially wearing expressionless masks, golden Watson and silver Smirnova could be robots or beings from outer space, or neither.
McGregor’s choreography, to music by Holly Herndon and Nils Frahm, plays a poor second fiddle to the sheer provocation of Mugler’s seriously OTT outfits. The two dancers grapple ineffectually before removing masks, helmets and limb guards, revealing feathered legs and long, bouncing crests reminiscent of exotic birds. And then it ends.
The evening starts in more sombre mood with Radio & Juliet, Romanian choreographer Edward Clug’s take on ‘the star cross’d lovers,’ to music by Radiohead.
Radio & Juliet. Photo: Maximov
Radio & Juliet has toured internationally to some acclaim since its creation in 2005, but this is its UK premiere, danced by Mariinsky principal Denis Matvienko and English National Ballet first soloist Katja Khaniukova, backed by five male dancers from SNG Maribor Ballet, where Clug is a director.
A deconstructed Romeo and Juliet, this modern-day story is told through the disjointed memories of Juliet, after she opted not to join Romeo in death. It starts with a grainy, jittery, black and white film slowly progressing into a room where a young woman lies on a bed. Gradually, men in black suits and no shirts walk onto to the stage, characters in Juliet’s memory.
The scenes that follow are not all easily identifiable. For the masked ball the dancers use surgical masks, Mercutio’s death is graphic enough, and the fight scenes are highly effective, but there is also quite a bit of abstract dancing that feels like padding. The dancers, though, are compelling in their performance of Clug’s detailed, intense language, with its staccato movements and intricate counterpoint.
Matvienko is Romeo. A beautiful dancer, he is a pleasure to watch, infusing each movement with clear definition; and is an excellent partner to Khaniukova’s affecting and assured Juliet.
Radiohead’s soundtrack, with Thom Yorke’s disquieting vocals, and including a synthetised voice from the album OK Computer, creates just the right atmosphere of unease.
The third piece of the programme is Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Faun, created for the 2009 celebrations of the famous Ballets Russes at Sadler’s Wells. Inspired by Ninjinksy’s controversial L’Après-Midi d’un Faune, it uses the eponymous Debussy score augmented (some would say interfered with) by Nitin Sawhney.
Cherkaoui’s Faun hasn’t really aged well, and the Bolshoi principals Vyacheslav Lopatin and Anastasia Stashkevich, as the bored faun and the enticing forest nymph, had some difficulty dealing with its contortions, the work’s intended sensual atmosphere rather lost in the telling.
|What||McGregor + Mugler Review|
|Where||London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, , London , WC2N 4ES | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
07 Dec 19 – 08 Dec 19, !9:30 Sun at 17:00 Dur.: 2 hours inc one interval
|Website||Click here to book|