Mikhailovsky Ballet, Coliseum, London
The Rude Mechanicals, Little Horsted School Field, east Sussex

The Russians are coming – time to take to the wing

London in high summer has become a magnet for Russian ballet companies, and this year they're not even bothering to take it in turns.

Sneaking in a week ahead of the Bolshoi comes the Mikhailovsky Ballet. Is there some obscure pre-Revolutionary law, you wonder, that decrees that every ballet season must open with a repertory warhorse? The Mikhail-ovsky has rustled up some intriguing Stalin-era rarities for later in its fortnight season. But to start, Swan Lake it is.

This, it turns out, is at least a fine production, based on the Bolshoi staging by Alexander Gorsky that blew London audiences away in 1956 – the West's eye-popping introduction to Russian athleticism. The story-telling is clear, design and costumes are uncommonly pretty, and the whole thing cracks along under the baton of conductor Pavel Bubelnikov. You can tell it's a native Russian orchestra from the crystalline first few bars.

These could be none other than Russian dancers, either. Are the girls' arms really longer than those of regular humans? Or is it just the cultivated line from shoulder to fingertip that creates an elegant illusion?

The corps of swans – again, echt-Russian in their Identikit propor-



tions – are very good indeed, interest heightened when you know that among their number is 17-year-old Isabella McGuire Mayes, one of the few British students ever to attend the legendary Vaganova school in St Petersburg. It's to her credit that she was so hard to pick out.

The disappointment is that the Siegfried and his Swan Queen are horribly miscast. He, Marat Shemiunov, is so lanky you fear he'll topple over; Ekaterina Borchenko, while catwalk glamorous, is a brittle emotional blank. Happily, though, supporting roles partly fill the central void, with an unusually appealing Jester (Denis Tolmachov) and a properly sinister nemesis in Vladimir Tsal, who even manages to give the wrenching off of one of his raggedy black wings (a moment that's often prey to unintended comedy) an urgent pathos.

Strap-on wings also feature in the latest show from The Rude Mechanicals, a group who tour their magical-realist theatre around village greens – you bring your own chair. These wings, however, like every other prop in Ik'r'us Inc (titles are not a strong point) are entirely imagined. And what imagination! Pete Talbot, writer, director and composer to boot, seems to have a masochistic relish for tough theatrical challenges.

In last year's show, it was the flooding of the Thames. This time it's human flight, in a version of the Icarus story, set in 1950s small-town Indiana, where wily travelling salesman Daedalus Gildersleeves (Grant Stimpson) and his moody, Harley-revving son Ikarus (Rowan Talbot, who does a mean line in motorbike sound-effects) have folk clamouring to pay 10 bucks apiece to have their dreams come true.

Artful body language, authentic commedia slap-sticks and a merrily byzantine plot are made even more vivid by superb doo-wop singing and taut instrumental playing by the five-strong cast. There are laughs. There are rude bits. And there's poetry too. I swear I've never had so much fun in a field.

'Swan Lake' 22-25 Jul (0871 911 0200). The Rude Mechanicals tour continues across the southern counties to 15 Aug (01323 501260)

Next Week:

While the Mikhailovsky's run continues, the Bolshoi flies in, crash-landing with its monumental Spartacus

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
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.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power