Sadler's Wells, London

Dance review: Petrushka/The Rite of Spring - Stravinsky puts a Spring in your step


A celebratory double bill is inspired by heartlifting music, while a dire jailhouse 'dansical' deserves to be locked up

Why pay money to turn out on a wet night when you could stay in with a DVD? Because nothing compares to the liveness of live theatre, to that sense of being in the moment. Two premieres last week hit major snags. One flailed, the other triumphed, its positives only enhanced by a sharp reminder that, on the night, anything can happen, magic included.

Michael Keegan-Dolan's staging of The Rite of Spring isn't strictly new. It first burst on the London stage four years ago, offering a bracingly fresh line on Stravinsky's score by filling the stage with images of provincial Ireland: hare-coursing, tea-drinking, and flat-capped blokes in anoraks. Tame? Hardly, when all 18 men dropped their trousers and started to hump the floor.

That Rite has now been reworked and paired with Stravinsky's Petrushka, commissioned as part of A String of Rites, a series marking the centenary of a work that shattered the parameters of Western music. This time, though, Rite uses the four-hands piano version, a scaled-down affair both in volume and seismic clout. The performance of sisters Lidija and Sanja Bizjak, quaintly turned out in matching white socks, was nuanced to the point of lyrical – an interesting reading, but likely to disappoint some.

You begin to see the line of Dolan's thinking as his Rite proceeds. Paring his forces and equalising the gender balance, he has toned down the testosterone threat of his earlier version. Olwen Fouéré still presides as a shamanic queen of winter. Chain-smoking with relish, she pours "tea" for a bevy of colleens who fall into convulsions on drinking it. There is still insidious terror in the lifelike animal heads (design, Rae Smith) that each dancer produces from a cardboard box and tries for size. The moment when a dozen lurchers, tongues lolling, turn their gaze on the single hare is transfixing. But the redemptive twist of this Rite – a benign feminising of the world – fully makes sense only in relation to the Petrushka that follows. Dolan's gambit is to make two ballets seem like complementary halves of a single idea.

And it works. This Petrushka replaces the original scenario of the puppet booth at Butter Week Fair with a barefoot ballet blanc in which glimmers of the old story remain. Now the lyricism of Stravinsky's piano version comes into its own. This is music to make your heart sing. And sing was – bizarrely – what the director urged the audience to do when disaster struck on Thursday night in the show's final moments, and a 40ft rope ladder – Petrushka's passage to a suggested afterlife – failed to drop. Quick thinking on Dolan's part (he leapt on stage and sorted it out) saved the day. The faulty section was reprised – it worked second time – and the result was glorious.

There was no such reprieve, though, for Midnight Express (Coliseum, London *), the dansical based on Billy Hayes's memoir of being incarcerated, for dope smuggling, in a sadistic Turkish jail. A grisly subject for a ballet, you might think, and you would be right. Not even the glamour of its intended star, Sergei Polunin, who vanished six days before opening night, could have saved this dire project by Peter Schaufuss, whose CV includes ballets about Elvis and Princess Diana. Nor could it be saved by Mozart, whose sublime Requiem Mass is plundered shamelessly.

Polunin's stand-in, 20-year-old Johan Christensen, cuts a fine figure in an opening solo, but from then on is hamstrung by a role that allows nothing beyond empty posturing. The jailer's antics with a metal kosh are the evening's nadir. The booing at the interval curtain was richly deserved.

Critic's Choice

At the Place Prize Finals (Wed to 27 Apr), each night’s audience votes for its favourite finalist. Competing for the nightly £1,000 prize are the autobiographical Duet; Athletes, a reflection on competition in the modern world; Dead Gig, a tribute to hippie dinosaurs The Grateful Dead; and The Wishing Well, about the dynamics of desire. Judges also award £25,000 to an overall winner. At the Robin Howard Theatre, The Place, London.

Arts and Entertainment
Kristin Scott Thomas outside the Royal Opera House before the ceremony (Getty)
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Channel 4's Indian Summers
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor