Dance: Violent steps
EDWARD II SADLER'S WELLS LONDON
Thursday 04 February 1999
"A dark and bloody piece," as Bintley has said, Edward II is a two-act ballet based on Christopher Marlowe's play. It is a grown-up ballet, unusual in that its characters are nearly all men and that it deals with homosexuality. Perhaps that is why Jasper Conran tries to introduce an occasional contemporary note in his costumes - to highlight the drama's immediacy and present- day relevance - although the second half's sudden shift to lounge suits jars as self-conscious contrivance in his otherwise effective visual scheme.
Homosexuality and the struggle for political power: Edward II neglects his kingdom and alienates his wife Isabella in his infatuation with Piers Gaveston; his barons, led by Mortimer, pitch the country into insurrection and enlist Isabella's support. On the programme's printed page, the synopsis reads like a dense tangle of opposing wills. Yet on the stage, the action sweeps you up in its headlong rush like a tautly plotted thriller, even if this is at the expense of choreographic subtlety.
In this, Bintley is given tremendous support by his company. Wolfgang Stollwitzer - Stuttgart's original Edward, now a member of ERB - is a compelling and handsome focus as the anti-hero king, a golden figure whose irresponsibility leads to his tragedy. Sabrina Lenzi is a lovely Isabella, the frightened and vulnerable young bride arrived from France. Joseph Cipolla is a suitably thunderous, looming Mortimer, the arch-manipulator who seduces Isabella in his search for political might. It says a lot for the skill of the choreographer and his cast that they manage as the story progresses to turn the tables on our sympathies, so that by the end Edward is the martyr and Isabella a deserved outcast.
Their duets vividly encapsulate the emotional twists and turns. And so do Bintley's sensational set-pieces, such as the one presenting the horrible disarray of civil war, with criss-crossing lines of combating forces, and among them the appalling spectre of Death. Meanwhile, John McCabe's score rumbles and pounds, re-enforcing the drama's every twist, and Peter J Davison's sets prove wonderfully sinister. Do see Edward II: there is a lot of violence and dying, but you will enjoy it.
Booking: 0171-863 8000. A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 New Zealand 'the best country to work as a prostitute', says sex worker advocacy group
- 2 Purity balls: Girls in the US making virginity pledges as fathers vow to 'protect purity'
- 3 Mother 'will allow son's circumcision in return for release from prison'
- 4 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 5 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Beyonce angers fans by pouring expensive champagne into hot tub in Nicki Minaj 'Feeling Myself' video
Eurovision 2015: The best moments from Australia's random entry to Lithuania's gay kiss
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland