Australian National Ballet, Cardiff Millennium Centre

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The Independent Culture

The novelty is that Murphy has swapped the Germanic plot about an enchanted swan-maiden betrayed by a prince for a royal tragedy known to anyone who hasn't been in a coma for 25 years. Suffice to say that there is a prince called Siegfried, a fragile young bride called Odette, and a Baroness von Rothbart who has a former claim to the prince's heart. Devastated on finding there are three people in the marriage, Odette is carted off to a clinic by a dead-ringer for Dr Raj Persaud, which may be a coincidence but adds to the general fun of name-spotting. Act I also features a cartwheeling duchess, a frosty mother-in-law, and a younger male royal with a boyfriend (do the Aussies know something we don't?).

Conveying all this information within a seamless skein of solos and buoyant group dances sets a pace that would be manic were it not for the effective use of freeze-frame to show the characters' inner lives. One such stolen moment is a tortured, beautifully fashioned solo for Steven Heathcote's Prince that elicits more sympathy than you'd think possible for a figure in an uptight three-piece suit.

But it's in Act II that the drama begins to grip as the traumatised Odette (excellent Madeleine Eastoe), dazzled by the wimpled nurses at the clinic, hallucinates swans and enters the calm of their world. Here Murphy's choreography is full of vivid invention while satisfying traditionalists' most stringent demands. Conductor Nicolette Fraillon draws a passion and pathos from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia that brings the audience to its feet. A treat for ballet virgins and connoisseurs alike.

Coliseum, London WC2 (020 7632 8300), Wed to Sun

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