Ballet Black are touring a double-bill of story ballets with Shakespearean themes: namely infidelity, jealousy, unrequited love and general romantic confusion. Now in their 17th year having been founded in 2001 by director Cassa Pancho, Ballet Black are made up of dancers from black and Asian descent.
The Suit with Cathy Marston as both director and choreographer is inspired by a short story by South African author Can Themba and was adapted previously by Peter Brook. It is based in Sophiatown in the early 1950s, a suburb of Johannesburg.
The show benefits from Mthuthuzeli November’s South African knowledge of social dances which we see in his pas de deux with Matilda, his illicit lover. And then in subsequent sequences from the town’s inhabitants who serve as a five-strong chorus.
Philemon (José Alves) after his usual morning routine forgets his briefcase. He then returns to find his his wife in flagrante and is furious with jealousy but intent on making her to be filled with regret and remorse.
Indeed, Matilda (played with passion by Cira Robinson) is full of shame, guilt and despair that she has ruined their happy marriage. The suit left by Philemon’s rival is then set to become a character in itself, an honoured guest that is both bizarre and surreal.
The Kronos Quartet soundtrack with a wide range of music including Charles Ives and Jon Hassell adds depth and tension to the piece. While Jane Heather’s costumes and set are based on life in the shanty town in its heyday. The tragic, if melodramatic, ending is almost inevitable, but nevertheless shocking.
The revival of A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed and choreographed by Arthur Pita, sees three couples in tutus interrupted in all their balletic beauty by Isabela Coracy’s plucky Puck, a Boy Scout on a mission.
Marie Astrid Mence’s Hermia falls for Sakaya Ichikawa’s Helena after her beloved snorts some fairy dust as if it were the finest cocaine. Similarly Robinson’s Titania finds herself attracted to November’s Bottom.
The ensemble really pull out all the stops in this sideways glance at the Bard’s tragi-comedy that reveals Ballet Black as capable of both contemporary dance and classical ballet. Sweetly seductive stuff!
Reviewed on 16 November 2018 by Rich ‘Phoenix’ Jevons at Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds
See Ballet Black website for tour details
Here are all my reviews on The Reviews Hub from Leeds International Film Festival in one handy place. Just click on the blue links to read the full review!
This event at LIFF had real appeal, whether it was for Brontë fanatics, lovers of avant-garde film or just here for the role play. Jim Finn is obviously passionate about his work and this rubs off on the participants too.
Whether you are a long-term anime fan, or new to Japanese animation, Penguin Highway will have you chuckling and being wowed in equal measure. A delightful story and a visual treat.
The casting for the ensemble is perfect, and the film is certain to earn itself a number of filmic awards and critical plaudits. Quite simply a tour-de-force.
Louis Malle says it was “the first of his films he was completely happy with,” and quite rightly so given the masterful direction and Ghislain Cloquet’ s stunning cinematography.