DANCE / Missed by a whisker

WITH the Tales of Beatrix Potter, the Royal Ballet has brazenly targeted the Christmas box office - and it will succeed because the production, adapted for stage by Anthony Dowell from Frederick Ashton's 1971 film, is indisputably good-looking.

Adults reluctant to relive their childhood will be persuaded to by little pleas from winsome mouths. And why not? This party-frock special has great visual strength. The pastel sets are faithful to the spirit of Ms Potter, a watercolourist of some note, and the costumes, by Christine Edzard and masks by Rostislav Doboujinsky, are so detailed that waddling Jemima Puddleduck, corpulent Jeremy Fisher and hirsute Squirrel Nutkin are utterly convincing.

There are few interplays, however, so the thrill of watching animals hopping across stage in their bouffant costumes, tiny hands rubbing tired eyes, little feet bouncing on pointes, begins to pall long before the 70 minutes is up. The characters are also curiously dim. Still, that never stopped anyone from being cute.

London City Ballet reminds me of the car rental firm that advertises the fact that it tries harder; a more committed company would be difficult to find. So it is with this company, which invests every performance with a rare wholeheartedness. So why does it persist with Ben Stevenson's tedious version of Romeo and Juliet?

The company mounted the Stevenson ballet (to Serge Prokofiev's score) in last year's season, coupled with Vladimir Bourmeister's neat 1953 version of Swan Lake. The latter was delightful. Not so Romeo and Juliet, but the dancers tried hard. This year, even the give-all-we've-got company looks defeated. The fault lies at Stevenson's door. He simply fails to capture the emotion of Ashton's version and the dramatic angst of Kenneth MacMillan's. The deficiencies are even more cruelly exposed this year on the heels of English National Ballet's revival of Ashton's version in August, and Birmingham Royal Ballet's revival of MacMillan's version in October. Next to these, Stevenson's version looks a shade of prime ministerial grey.

The work lumbers like a steam train on a plateau, occasionally negotiating a few hills, but seldom veering from its dogged course. There is a little hill in Act I when Romeo (Paul Thrussell), Benvolio (Conor O'Brien) and Mercutio (Jack Wyngaard) prepare for the ball like John Travolta in anticipation of Saturday Night Fever. But the overexcited laddishness could be due as much as anything to Wyngaard's winning personality, so puckish and irreverent he overshadows the whole production.

The love duet in Act I should express the miracle of the new love, and although Stevenson has created some good phrases, as a sequence it never quite comes off, like so much in this production. The love duet is the one in which Ashton raises the temperature, making you feel that life will never be the same again for the Verona teenagers. Here the train chugs on remorselessly.

Kim Miller as Juliet is so light she seems to float. Coquettish in the early scenes, she never manages to grow into the young woman who matures quickly after falling in love with the enemy. It is a difficult role, requiring as much acting as dancing, and Miller shows a histrionic rather than theatrical tendency, especially in Act III when she is pressed by her parents to marry the most nerdish Paris (Dincer Solomon) in the business. She grips her shaking arm with a hand to steady it and later flops over the small altar in her room in tears. She certainly has lots to pray for. So do we: a drop of authenticity would do for a start.

'Tales of Beatrix Potter', Covent Garden (071-240 1066/1911) in repertory to 16 Jan; London City Ballet, Sadler's Wells (071-278 8916).

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss