Twin brothers aged 15 and that 43-year-old star who looks like a Tatar warrior have provided most of the publicity for The Prince and the Pauper. The twins played the title parts: those more familiar with the story than I was will know that they needed to look alike so that they could plausibly be mistaken for each other after a decidedly implausible decision to swap clothes. But it was Irek Mukhamedov's presence (as choreographer, not performer) that ensured a much higher profile for this year's production by the London Children's Ballet than for its previous activities over the past decade, although they have been building up consistently to this point.
The advantage of the subject, adapted from Mark Twain's story about children in Tudor London, is that it provides a lot of roles and a lot of incidents; the disadvantage is that the dramatic development is limited and artificial, and the story is not easy to tell in dance. Credit, then, to Mukhamedov, to the composer Timothy Hammond, and to Lucille Briance, LCB's founder and director, who adapted the scenario, for making the outcome lively, never boring, sometimes amusing and occasionally touching.
Mukhamedov's potential as a big-scale choreographer will remain an open question until he is seen working with more experienced dancers, but, on this evidence and some earlier work, I'd say he deserves a break. He worked his cast hard (57 youngsters playing about 150 roles), gave them some demanding steps and invented dances that showed character rather than straight classicism. Even more impressive, with a cast almost all aged nine to 15 (just two lads in their later teens to play mature roles), everybody danced expressively, above all the seven little boys entrusted with the ballet's wittiest and most inventive number, bringing the supposed prince the clothes for his coronation.
That sequence, together with a dance mimicking laughter, provided the best of the music, too, but the score supported the action anyway, while Diego Pitarch's ingenious settings (neat placing with minimal material) and Kate Ford's clever quick-change costumes excellently helped the action along. I am not going to suggest that the ballet was a great artistic manifestation, but I have seen performances lately by professional troupes that were less entertaining.Reuse content