English National Ballet dances emotionally-charged choreography with seamless fluidity in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, bringing dazzling decadence, drama and despair to the stage.

The late British choreographer’s intense romance is a classic narrative ballet that is rarely performed regionally. In fact, English National Ballet’s current revival and tour of this MacMillan masterpiece is quite an occasion as the company is presenting it outside London for only the second time in thirty years.

Despite being created in 1974, the three-act tragedy remains a paragon of adult, dramatic dance. Inspired by Abbé Prévost’s notorious 1731 French novel Manon Lescaut and danced to the music of Jules Massenet, MacMillan’s Manon is a balletic interpretation of one of the earliest imaginings of a femme fatale. It boasts meaty principal roles, bustling crowd scenes and enthralling pas de deux highlights; all of which push the boundaries of what ballet is, and should be, to unashamedly explore the darker side of the human condition.

If you love ballet, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to experience Manon – and if you don’t think ballet is for you, it’s even more important to give this powerful production a go.

 

 

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New English Ballet Theatre’s latest neoclassical programme is a stylish double bill that combines the abstract and the historical.

The vibrant young modern ballet company prides itself on creating refreshing new works for developing dancers, thereby furthering the art form and nurturing promising artists. Indeed, Artistic Director and CEO Karen Pilkington-Miksa has been recruiting a fresh batch of dancers each year since founding New English Ballet Theatre in 2011. These dancers receive a 12-month contract which affords them training and development opportunities with exciting creatives, as well as coveted time spent dancing on tour and in the West End.

While past offerings have thrown a spotlight on emerging choreographers, The Four Seasons / Remembrance features works from established dancemakers Jenna Lee and Wayne Eagling.

 

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War Horse is an extraordinary, emotionally exhausting piece of theatre that embodies both the essence of the equine and the futility of war.

The narrative boldly recounts the universal suffering that the First World War inflicted on men, women, children and the unsung heroes of the war effort – the horses. Ten million people died in the First World War, along with unknown millions of horses. In the carnage of the French battlefields, the 1914 – 1918 conflict proved to be a horrific experience on both sides of the frontline. Quite simply, there were no winners.

Former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write War Horse after seeing an old painting of a cavalry charge and realising that by describing the experience of the war through the eyes of a horse he could convey the plight of both British and German soldiers.

Noble steed Joey – who is half thoroughbred, half working farm horse – sees the best and worst of humanity throughout the deadly chaos of the First World War. His eventful life begins as a foal on a farm in Devon, where he is lovingly tamed and trained by his young master Albert Narracott.

Devastatingly, the pair are forcibly separated when war is declared as Joey is sold to the Army and shipped off to France. Here, he serves as a British officer’s charger and, after being captured, on the German side. Unable to bear being parted from his cherished companion, Albert lies about his age and enlists with the intention of bringing Joey home. After inspiring everyone he meets, Joey is found wandering and wounded in no man’s land where the story reaches its emotional climax.

 

 

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For a romantic musical that will sweep you off your feet without forcing you to wallow in too much mushy sentiment theatregoers need look no further than An Officer and a Gentleman.

The classic 1982 film has been rebooted as a pacey jukebox musical that is simultaneously corny and gritty. Lifting audience members up with exuberant performances of more than twenty chart hits from the Eighties, the simple story follows the exploits of bad boy US naval officer trainee Zack Mayo and his “will they, won’t they” relationship with local factory girl Paula Pokrifki.

While the narrative is a little slow to really take off, this lightweight chick flick exploration of how ordinary people endeavour to escape deep-rooted inner demons and daily drudgery undoubtedly benefits from being paired with punchy period pop music. A score consisting of such a wide selection of half-decent tunes is surely guaranteed to have spectators of all ages tapping their feet in recognition and readily engaging with the characters’ experiences. It certainly worked for me and I am not familiar with the Oscar-winning movie at all!

 

 

 

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Chick flick romcom Legally Blonde makes for a feel-good musical that is as sparkling as pink champagne.

The 2001 American film, based on the novel by Amanda Brown and starring Reese Witherspoon, sees protagonist Elle Woods prove that one can never be overdressed or overeducated.

Pretty, popular and passionate about pink, fashion marketing student Elle is devastated when her boyfriend Warner Huntington III breaks up with her, declaring that he needs a more serious sweetheart befitting of the future he has planned. Elle is determined to win him back, so she shuns sorority parties, starts swotting and successfully bags herself a place to study alongside Warner at the prestigious Harvard Law School. Accompanied by her cute chihuahua, Bruiser, Elle remains unabashedly herself in her new surroundings. Pink princess and legal eagle, she essentially ends up falling in love with her own untapped potential.

 

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