How big is too big to be a ballet star? This autumn, a new three-part documentary on Channel 4 will follow a group of plus-size dancers as they prepare to perform Swan Lake on stage at Northern Ballet.
Their mentor is Wayne Sleep, once told by the Royal Ballet that he was too short to be a dancer. The idea is to challenge the notion that one has to be size zero to be a ballerina, and to break taboos around weight, says a Channel 4 spokesman: “Ballet is a place where body fascism exists in a way that is not really allowed anywhere else.”
That said, the programme-makers were quite specific about the body shapes required when they put out a call for volunteers earlier this year, requesting only “ladies who are larger than a size 12 and gents who are larger than a 32in waist” apply.
Of course, there is already one ballet troupe – The Trocks – who have been challenging the physical norms of ballet with their all-male versions of the classics since the 1970s – 32in waists and all.
The two sisters
Imagine if the middle-aged heroine of The Seagull, Arkadina, had been in love with a younger woman, rather than a younger man. Would it have changed Chekhov’s masterpiece? Not according to theatre director Jennifer Lunn, who, on Sunday night, will stage the play with a lesbian couple at its heart. The scene will form part of From Russia, For Love, a theatrical fundraiser featuring 17 of the greatest love scenes in Russian literature reimagined with same-sex couples. Works by Chekhov, Bulgakov and Tolstoy will be performed in the basement of the old BBC building in Marylebone Gardens by theatre companies from around the country. Poet Stella Duffy will also appear on film, reading Pushkin. All proceeds will go to the Russian LGBT Network and Stonewall, towards their work combating homophobia in Russia.
How easily does Chekhov lend himself to lesbian romance? “I didn’t have to change much at all”, says Lunn. “It worked really well. I might do the full play now. It’s made me think we could be a lot more gender-blind in theatre.”
Murillo's memory trip
Last month the Diary reported on Oscar Murillo’s art lottery at South London Gallery for which the public could buy a customised, silk-screen printed ticket for £2,500, in the hope of winning a mystery prize. Remarkably 99 tickets were sold but the draw, last week, was not without controversy. When the winning ticket was plucked from a piñata at a Colombian bar in South London, its owner was absent so the artist decided to pick a second. That belonged to David Zwirner, aka Murillo’s all-powerful gallerist in New York and London. As the boos mounted, Zwirner eventually returned the prize to the original winner, Alvara Franco from South London. He won a “memory trip to Colombia”, a work of memorabilia compiled by Murillo. Second prize was a “memory trip to Mexico” and third, a Comme des Garçons T-shirt. The real winners, though, were South London Gallery, to whom Murillo has given the proceeds of the lottery – nearly £250,000.
Fresh from The Great British Bake Off, Mel Giedroyc has headed for the stage and is now starring in The Opinion Makers, a new musical at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Giedroyc plays Lily Lassiter, useless assistant to Justin Edwards’s hapless boss in a market research company in the Sixties. “She’s Peggy to his Don Draper,” director Daniel Buckroyd tells me. “Well, they aspire to the slickness of Mad Men but they bungle it in classic, English, comic style.”