La Fille mal gardée – Birmingham Royal Ballet: Sadler’s Wells, 20 October 2011

Hark! the Herold angels dance

Clogging up the airwaves. Michael O'Hare and chums go Dutch.

Not a ballet with much in the way of hidden depth Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée is a sugar-coated panto-fest of two-dimensional characters that relies on a winning charm to get by; the tangled duet that ends in a pink ribbony kiss still raises an ‘aaah’ with the audience fifty years after it was first performed.

The charisma between the lead roles of Lise and Colas is key and there was a convincingly ticklish frisson between Nao Sakuma and Iain Mackay on display tonight. Mackay oozed boyish enthusiasm, though his solo work was untidy at times, while Sakuma was all wide-eyed innocence as exemplified in her dainty pointework. Their Act II pas de deux was particularly well-crafted and their acting light and frothy – pitched just the right side of total farce.

Michael O’Hare threw in a jaunty clog dance and thankfully didn’t ham his Widow Simone up beyond the call of duty. Robert Gravenor did as good a job as could be expected with the irritatingly hopeless Alain and it’s about time someone left the latch on the chicken coop.

It’s clear, however, that Birmingham Royal Ballet are currently in rude health; there was plenty of spark and cohesion in the ensemble work and, despite the extended intervals, the evening trotted along prettily enough for most.

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