Kenneth MacMillan – A National Celebration
Royal Opera House
Tuesday, 24th October 2017
The Judas Tree – Song of the Earth – 10/24/2017
THE JUDAS TREE: Royal Ballet
SONG OF THE EARTH: English National Ballet
And after a dreamy cinema relay, the House is brought from Wheeldon’s Wonderland into MacMillan’s darkest production for the second programme of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration. The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet jointed forces bringing two of the choreographer’s most complex works – Royals took on the Judas Tree, whilst ENB dancers performed in Song of the Earth.
I had never seen the Judas Tree before, and I was left shaken by this deeply troubling piece: MacMillan’s latest and most controversial ballet on guilt and betrayal in a compromised time saw the most powerful performances ever by Lauren (God, barely 24 hours later dancing Alice, is she really human?), Thiago Soares, Edward Watson and Reece Clarke, showing off their undisputed artistry through appalling violence on a building site in London’s East End.
Even MacMillan, talking about his final work, admitted the final result to be ‘frightening’, and Jock McFayden’s 1990s Canary Wharf building site’s stage set is sinister as well as Brian Elias’ score (1992). The themes of sexual violence, collective guilt, violence of the mob and rule of fear are strongly emphasized throughout the gripping choreography, starting with workmen carrying Lauren covered with a white sheet. She was amazingly partnered by a possessive and violent Foreman (Thiago, the “Judas” figure) and a much gentler Friend (Ed, seen as a sort of “Jesus”) in such a febrile atmosphere, and they really gave us a superb yet emotionally eviscerating performance: Lauren amazed the public in this hell of a role with her dramatic interpretation and with Thiago, Edward and Reece perfectly portrayed MacMillan’s psychological drama as well as humanity’s darkest side.
The second work, Song of the Earth (1965), is set in six movements on Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and MacMillan himself summarized his ballet of love, loss and renewal saying: ’A man and a woman; death takes the man; they both return to her and at the end of the ballet, we find that in death there is the promise of renewal.’
It was superbly performed by English National Ballet, with earthbound, non-classical movements stressing beauty and power in sculptural poses and melancholic combinations.
Erina Takahashi danced beautifully, and Isaac Hernandez was impressing with his powerful moves as well as Jeffrey Cirio. Great Senri Kou, Aitor Arrieta and Tiffany Hedman as supporting dancers too.
It was amazing to see these two works (MacMillan’s final one opposite to one of his earliest ones), created almost 30 years apart and performed together in a combination of ambition and complexity – this celebration is really showing off his wide range of choreographic skills.
Now waiting for the last bill of Friday!