Dance review: Midnight Express, London Coliseum
Thursday 11 April 2013
The onstage drama can’t compete with the goings-on behind the scenes. A week before the London premiere of the Peter Schaufuss Ballet’s Midnight Express, its star Sergei Polunin left the production. Last year, Polunin’s shock resignation from The Royal Ballet was front page news; he’s getting a reputation for disappearing acts. Given the quality of Midnight Express, he’s well out of it.
The ballet is based on Billy Hayes’ account of his time in a Turkish prison, later made into an award-winning film. Schaufuss, whose back catalogue includes a ballet about Diana, Princess of Wales, goes in for sensational productions. In recent years, he’s brought in star names to headline his London seasons. This time, he lost two of them. Igor Zelensky, ex-Mariinsky star and director of Moscow’s Stanislavsky Ballet, where Polunin is now based, was to have played the abusive jailor. He too has pulled out of the production.
Johan Christensen replaces Polunin as Billy Hayes. Having learned the role in three days, he throws himself into it, dancing Schaufuss’ dreadful choreography with athletic commitment. The ballet opens with Christensen posed in a spotlight, the drugs he’s trying to smuggle strapped to his chest, a heartbeat thumping on the soundtrack. Then he gets caught and – oh dear – taken to a scene of disco brutality.
Policemen strut like Village People to G. Moroder’s early 80s beat, while Johan King Silverhult’s heavy-set, underpowered jailor waves an extra-large truncheon. Hayes is beaten up and thrown into a jail full of stereotypes. The informer skulks around with painfully obvious sneaky moves. The intellectual wears glasses. It’s still oddly difficult to tell them apart. When prisoners die, angels of death show up to collect them, dancing hobbling pointework.
If police violence is expressed through disco, prison angst looks like an exercise class, with lots of aerobic leg-waving to a Mozart soundtrack. In the fight scene, prisoners smash metal mugs against bars or tables. Even that steady beat lacks punch. Schaufuss can’t decide if his fight should be stylised or naturalistic, and tries for both, complete with audible scream and spitting blood.
For a wonder, Wayne Eagling, the third of the guest stars, stayed on board to dance the hero’s father, in a duet full of pietà moves and waffling gestures. After more brutality, including an implied rape, Hayes finally escapes. It’s a merciful release for all of us.
Until 14 April. Box office 020 7845 9300
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Ed Miliband less influential than One Direction's Louis Tomlinson in official Doncaster power list
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'