Carbon Life/Sweet Violets/Polyphonia, Royal Opera House, London

3.00

 

The Royal Ballet’s latest works are very busy. Wayne McGregor’s glossy Carbon Life is a pop-fashion collaboration with Mark Ronson, Gareth Pugh and a great many pop stars. Liam Scarlett’s Sweet Violets is a mess of bad and good ideas about Walter Sickert, Jack the Ripper and an artist at work. Christopher Wheeldon’s 2001 Polyphonia, which opens the evening, is sleek and just right.

Danced to a Rachmaninoff trio, Sweet Violets concerns the artist Walter Sickert, his paintings and his fascination with the Ripper murders. Scarlett throws in characters from various late-Victorian conspiracies, with Queen Victoria’s grandson Eddy and the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury alongside artist’s models, prostitutes and the stylised figure of the Ripper. The plot isn’t remotely clear, on stage or in Scarlett’s own synopsis.

Yet the ballet does have a sense of atmosphere. John Macfarlane’s brilliant designs evoke the smudgy world of Sickert’s paintings, from music hall to cheap bedrooms. In the painter’s studio, his employees Alina Cojocaru and Laura Morera flirt with Sickert and his friends. The interactions are teasing and socially precise. Both women freeze when Sickert’s paints get knocked over: this is a Bohemian world, but there’s no doubt who’s in charge. Scarlett’s women, unlike most balletic prostitutes, are insistent about being paid in advance.

Scarlett has a superb cast. Johan Kobborg is a driven, nervy Sickert, with Leanne Cope vivid as one of the victims. Tamara Rojo is sensational as a model, slouching and challenging as she poses. Sitting on the bed, weighted and weary, she evokes a whole world.

McGregor’s Carbon Life has a glowing, gorgeous beginning. Mark Ronson’s opening song, orchestrated by Rufus Wainwright, twinkles softly. Lucy Carter's lighting, bright lights behind a gauze screen, gives the dancers haloes. They look like heavenly bodies, floating and turning through their orbits. It’s shamelessly pretty.

Once the gauze rises, the focus shifts to Ronson’s starry lineup of singers: Boy George, Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Hero Fisher, Jonathan Pierce of The Drums. The dancers, who start in plain underwear, add layers of stiff black costume (tutu skirts, shoulder-pads, impossible boots) created by fashion designer Gareth Pugh.

McGregor’s choreography is full of twists, arched spines and upflung legs. Music and dancing both get repetitive, but there are charismatic performances. Marianela Nuñez stands out in a trio with two masked men, while Mosshart prowls the stage, stalking into the dancers’ territory.

In repertory until 23 April. Box office 020 7304 4000.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
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
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.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor