Dance: Skating far too close to the edge

We always knew that the London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) were performing marvels at their old home. With no flying tower, and a stage like a shelf, the Royal Festival Hall (which was built purely for orchestral concerts) is a dance director's nightmare - as the Royal Ballet is now discovering.

Matthew Hart's charming Peter and the Wolf was excellently danced by the Royal Ballet School and didn't suffer particularly from the transfer, but the lack of space can become painfully apparent whenever existing work is shoehorned on to it. The graceful circuits of the ice made by Ashton's chasse-ing dancers in his 1937 masterpiece Les Patineurs may have been crafted on the cramped 30ft stage of the old Sadler's Wells, but in this new, foreshortened site the circles are squashed into ellipses.

Ashton's seamless exits and entrances were let down last Tuesday by some perilously close brushes with the trellis-work. However, the dancers responded manfully to the challenge of fitting the steps into the space available. Miyako Yoshida and Deborah Bull were slyly witty as the two show-offs in blue, Yoshida nipped through her fouettes with much of the speed and twice the charm of any figure-skater you could name.

Equally slippery was Tetsuya Kumakawa's Blue Boy. The audience was delighted with his silky pirouettes and bold cabrioles. Unfortunately, so was he - but perhaps a little cockiness is not inappropriate when portraying the supercharged vanity of the solo skating virtuoso.

Such individuality is largely dispensed with in the second number in the double-bill: Ashton's Tales of Beatrix Potter. The work was successfully translated from the 1971 feature film to a live-action fluff-fest in 1992 and has been tormenting dancers and selling tickets ever since. On Tuesday, a last-minute cast change was announced, telling us that one of Squirrel Nutkin's fat, furry chums had been replaced. Trust me: your own mother wouldn't know you through that amount of fur fabric and after 15 minutes' dancing in that heat, you'd have forgotten your own name anyway. I'd selected a lightweight black crepe number for the evening and I found the Festival Hall sweltering - happily I wasn't wearing my padded, all-in-one squirrel suit.

The over-long 65-minute production has had to be altered considerably to fit its temporary home. The Two Bad Mice now take possession of a bungalow rather than a magnificent, two-storey Victorian villa, and all of the backcloths have to be tracked on from the wings like so many Swish curtains, with the result that Oliver Symons's spirited Mrs Tiggywinkle runs on against a rather creased approximation of the Lake District. The point where two curtains join is occasionally held in place by a rather obvious fist.

The dancers began their stint of 14 Potters with commendable energy. Peter Abegglen, Hubert Essakow and Joshua Tuifua put in some chasteningly nimble pointework as Pigling Bland and friends, and all have tendonitis to look forward to in the New Year. William Trevitt was in a fever of fuss and virtuosity as Jeremy Fisher, and Natalie McCann waddled her way sweetly through Jemima Puddleduck. They may not actually spend a week on a farm in preparation for each role, but they do apparently aim to do all the appropriate facial expressions beneath Rostislav Doboujinsky's masks. All the more heartbreaking when you reflect that at least half the audience is probably applauding the suit.

`Tales of Beatrix Potter' is in a double bill with either `Les Patineurs' or `Peter and the Wolf' at the Royal Festival Hall, SBC, London SE1, until Saturday. Tickets: 0171-304 4000

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living