Ambiguity dominates the latest Royal Ballet mixed bill. Liam Scarlett’s new The Age of Anxiety presents characters from a 1940s world, like an Edward Hopper painting. They’re superbly danced, but remain within their painted frame. In Kim Brandstrup’s Ceremony of Innocence, memories blur into images of lost youth.
Still in his 20s, Scarlett has had a meteoric rise, particularly with pure dance works. His story ballets have been dramatically overstuffed. Based on a W.H. Auden poem, to music by Leonard Bernstein, The Age of Anxiety shows new coherence. Four characters meet in a bar, lavishly designed by John Macfarlane, where they drink and try to make sense of their lives.
Steven McRae is a sexually upfront sailor, approaching both men and women, including Laura Morera, who is both glamorous and pensive. Bennet Gartside’s tweedy older man and Tristan Dyer’s idealist are more cautious. There’s a period distance to Scarlett’s choreography. Despite terrific performances, the drama feels external: it’s about the characters’ inner lives, but doesn’t quite bring us into them.
Ceremony of Innocence creates a mood of loss and reflection, with a glowing performance by Marcelino Sambé. The evening ends with Christopher Wheeldon’s bombastic Aeternum.
Until 17 November. Box office 020 7304 4000.