On the surface, Clark's commission is a straightforward prodigal returns scenario: gifted student runs away to see, tinkers with the surgical appliances, settles down with a nice bit of Stravinsky and is allowed back into the fold. But it doesn't work like that. And Clark is no prodigal. The Royal isn't allowing him back, he's agreeing to go. 'I'm going back on my own terms. It's me who's postponed it for this long. Anytime they've looked like coming near me, I've done something to keep them away.' Usually something rude.
Clark has mellowed somewhat in the last few years but the Royal Ballet's director, Anthony Dowell, has seen neither of his recent critical triumphs Mmm. . . and O. 'I'd seen much earlier works of his and you know all the sensational things, the corset and all that.' As far as he's concerned, Clark might still be running around the stage strapped to a dildo. 'There are always risks but have to take them. You can't just be safe.'
The new work is in a triple bill with Ashley Page's magnificent Fearful Symmetries and Balanchine's Symphony in C. Michael Clark had expressed anxiety that the high Opera House prices might discourage his regular audience, but Covent Garden has made one performance a special low-price matinee for students, under-18s, UB40s and low income groups. Tickets that normally cost anything up to pounds 50 are a more modest pounds 1.50-pounds 20. Booking for this performance at 2pm on Saturday 10 December is already open. Those eligible should call 071-304 4000. Further information about the project from the Access Officer 071-212 9307.
Postal booking for all other performances opens 20 Sept.