Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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Ballet? Me?

Posted by Oli on Thursday 14th February, 2008

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m am rather pointedly against Valentine’s day. Tipping point this year undoubtedly came when I read an article in TIME Magazine talking about “the holiday” and all that comes with it.

Far be it from me to deprive the un-romantics of this world from their one day when they manage to muster up enough retail-fed creativity to find a gift that won’t make their girlfriend sigh with disaffection, but when we start to call Valentine’s day a “holiday” you know things have gone too far – and too commerical.

As if diluting the true meaning of Christmas and Easter down to a pair of jolly, junk-food inspired cartoon characters (or near enough) wasn’t bad enough, it is now apparent that we have to encourage our kids that February 14th means sending over-priced, over-valued, empty-sentiment cards and gifts to the people we love. I say people because I’m reliably informed that in some schools it’s now no longer possible to send a valentine to the one you kinda fancy, but instead it’s a requirement to send them to EVERYONE in your class. Gosh, if only the real world were that loved up we’d have no war, no poverty, no famine – we’d all be happy little cherubs floating around on clouds of marshmellows.

Personally, I don’t need anyone to tell me – Tesco, Asda, Clinton’s, Homebase – on which day of the year I love my girlfriend. I’m incredibly lucky to have the most wonderful other half (and she very much is my mirror image – only with her own lungs and not someone elses) who loves me to pieces and whom I love just as much. But we love each other this much every day of the year, not just when someone decides we should in order to sell more tat.

My plan for Valentine’s day had been to avoid it all together and not worry about it, but as it happens a friend of K’s had to pull out of going to the Theatre this evening to watch Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker, which left a ticket going begging and a very doe-eyed K looking at me plaintively.

So – grudgingly – along I went, feeling very much like most men look when they go to the ballet: slightly bored, slightly put-upon and wishing they were sitting at home watching Bruce Willis blow something up at Christmas.

So it pains me terribly to say it, but I loved it. Having worked in theatre for most of the last 8 years, I’m only too well aware of Bourne’s reputation as a choreographer and theatre-maker (for his is quite definitely both), but all I’d seen of his work was his Edward Scissorhands of a couple of years ago, which I’m reliably informed is by far his weakest piece. I’d managed to let his Nutcracker, all-male Swan Lake and reportedly spectacular Play Without Words pass me by. And boy to I regret not taking them in when I had the chance now.

His Nutcracker was remarkable – vivid, colourful, soulful and emotive, a real feast of visual theatre that at times strayed about as far from ballet as it’s possible to go without bursting into song. As we arrived at the Theatre, an old colleague of mine commented that at times you forgot you were watching dance and that it wasn’t simply one of the best choreographed musicals you’d ever seen, and I now know precisely what she means.

Humble me it did, and also made me remember my old maxim from the olden days that it’s always worth giving a show a go, even if you think it’s going to be the worst thing you can possibly imagine plonking yourself in front of for two hours of a perfectly good evening.

I resolved to keep that at the fore-front of my mind from here on out and to embrace the new challenges that the Theatre may throw at me now I’m able to pop to Town and take in some of the Fringe theatre around London and more of the delights that visit MK. All judgements will now be reserved until at least the interval. If you haven’t caught my attention by then, mind, you might well see my seat empty during the second act…

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3 Responses to “Ballet? Me?”

  1. Emmie said

    Just don’t get too carried away by your new found love of ballet Oli and start wearing the tights….it’s not a fetching look, Valentine’s Day or no Valentine’s Day LOL ;o) xxxxx

  2. Bruce said

    Harsh words, there. =)

    Indeed you’re right, commercialisation is sickening, but it is nice to be given an occasion to mark your love – whether or not you buy the singing teddy bears that make you want to die.

    x

  3. Hannah said

    How strange – I was at that very same performance in Milton Keynes on Thursday! You don’t know me but I’ve followed your blog for some time as you’re such a good writer.

    It has to be said, I didn’t enjoy Nutcracker! at all! I know I go against the swathe of informed opinion here, but I just found the entire second half ill-conceived, and the timing didn’t work for me. For a second at the end I thought they were going to be extremely brave and leave Clara left with nothing, but then in seconds it was all resolved, unsatisfactorily I found. There was no tension in the second half, never any suggestion that the Nutcracker would chose Clara instead, which left it rather empty, I found. I did, on the other hand, catch Swan Lake, and that I did think was absolutely fantastic, rippling with suppressed tension and raw sexuality.

    Anyway, just thought I’d throw in my tuppence here. I’ve not read any critics expressing views like mine so it clearly reflects an inadequacy in me rather than in the show, but still, for me, it failed.

    So glad you’re doing so well.
    x

    p.s. I did think the scene with Knickerbocker was fantastic though – terrifying but fantastic!

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