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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on