Djinn Genie, let yourself go
In 1910 Michel Fokine choreographed Scheherazade for the Ballets Russes. Watching David Bintley’s new production of Aladdin for Birmingham Royal Ballet you’d be forgiven for thinking that not much has changed in the 100 years or so since. Featuring the same typically hokey characters of harem girls in pointy shoes, rotund dignitaries with greedy pointy fingers and evil villains with black pointy beards, Aladdin certainly doesn’t kowtow to modern notions of political correctness.
Western orientalism aside, however, Aladdin just about hangs together as a classical ballet/pantomime, mainly through some clever special effects (the blue Djinn’s various entrances are particularly imaginative), Mark Jonathan’s terrific lighting, Dick Bird’s attractive (if architecturally incoherent) sets and Sue Blane’s superbly sumptuous costumes. And a couple of fab Chinese dragons.
César Morales and Nao Sakuma played Aladdin and his Princess and there were a couple of lovely pas de deux for the pair of them in which to display their easy grace and charm. Unfortunately they were a tad hamstrung because their cartoonish characters had already been set up with him as something of a buffooning chancer and she as a beautiful but dim dreamer (she does, after all, bafflingly swap a perfectly good magic lamp for an ordinary oil one). As a result the sudden shifts between foolish young’uns and romantic lovers was a bit too much too take, even within the context of flying carpets and blue genies.
The dancing throughout the company was fresh and decent although few roles were developed enough to truly shine. Tzu-Chao Chou’s djinn leapt around the stage in a riot of pantaloons and he and his entourage had several excitingly executed ensemble numbers to bask in while Marion Tait gave a good comic turn as Aladdin’s mother.
Young children would probably love it (and there’s an offer for kids to go free during the Coliseum run) and I guess that’s the point. And if the accompanying adults go with them purely for the spectacle, they’d almost certainly enjoy it too.
Aladdin stays at the London Coliseum until 24 March 2013. The Birmingham Royal Ballet website has more information and tickets.