Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Peacock Theatre, London

Men in tights and flights of fancy

Nadine Meisner
Saturday 08 March 2014 04:52

Some aspects of a Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performance have become a ritual, which fans probably wouldn't want changed for the world. There is the announcement in a heavy Russian accent of cast changes to the programme, and the reminder that photography is forbidden because "sudden bursts of light tend to remind our more fragile ballerinas of Bolshevik gunfire". There is the manly bulge in Hilarion's tights, which probably owes more to a couple of mangoes than to the usual sock, and would scare Giselle off, if his unbelievably ragged dancing hadn't already done the trick. And, of course, there are the masculine ballerinas of all shapes and sizes, with six-inch eyelashes, big, stiff feet and names like Margeaux Mundeyn and Maya Thickenthighya.

The first of the two programmes begins with Act II of Giselle, acted out against a curiously tropical garden painted by Edward Gorey. Hilarion (here called Hans) ambles on and has trouble locating Giselle's grave, as does Albrecht (Albert), although Albrecht has the excuse of a cape with a voluminous hood, leaving only a slit for his protruding nose. Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, makes her first entrance with bourrées crossing the stage into the wings opposite, followed by an enormous crash, which is what happens when you can't see where you're going. Her problematic veil removed, she sets about enlisting Giselle into her rather depleted Wili forces and wreaking her revenge on the men of the world. Meanwhile Wili Moyna is spectacularly tall with a poking head and a red wig that looks as if she's been dragged from her grave backwards. The dancing is uniformly appalling, but much of the choreography miraculously stays intact, staged by Yelena Tchernychova.

The humour depends on sending up ballet conventions, and some of the Giselle jokes are rather good. But after that it's all steeply downhill, maybe because the same targets get recycled. The problem, though, with I Wanted to Dance with You at the Café of Experience, was not that it was predictable, but that it was unrecognisable. It certainly had little connection with the iconography of Pina Bausch, despite pre-performance claims, and the result was that any intended satire fell flat.

By the time we get to the reduced Don Quixote, the evening has outlasted itself, especially as the techniques of Fifi Barkova (Kitri) and RM (Prince) Myshkin (Basil) couldn't sustain the demands of the showpiece pas de deux. And yet partnering a ballerina-man with overhead lifts must be quite a struggle, and the "Trocks" work hard and whole-heartedly. It may all resemble a student drag review, but they probably deserve the cheers of their fans.

To 13 October, 020-7863 8000

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