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
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'