Scottish Ballet Starstruck is at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh this week (Thu 14 to Sat 16 Oct), and if there are any tickets still left try not to miss this one. I have to admit that Scottish Ballet is one of the companies that I have missed most from watching on-stage throughout a far too long enforced absence of live performance, but the wait has been worth it. Starstruck is simply Scottish Ballet at its innovative and performance best.
Starstruck is Scottish Ballet’s homage to the work and memory of the legendary Gene Kelly (b 1912 – d 1996) and, in collaboration with his wife Patricia Ward Kelly, Scottish Ballet’s CEO/Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and designer Lez Brotherston have lovingly brought to life the short ballet Pas de Dieux, which was “imagined” by Gene Kelly when The Paris Opera House invited him to create a new and original work for them in 1960. With a newly created introduction, Scottish Ballet’s Starstruck re-created not only the glamour and feel of those classic Hollywood musicals in which Gene Kelly found fame, but also the sheer range of dance styles he incorporated into his work (including classical ballet and jazz) and the unique power, strength and apparently effortless grace and style which Gene Kelly brought to dance through his inspired choreography.
I have to admit that, although I know the film work of Gene Kelly well, I was until this production not fully aware of his reputation outside of film as an innovative choreographer, and Gene Kelly is without doubt one of the few dancers and choreographers that could say that they brought something absolutely unique to dance and changed it forever.
This is a wonderfully playful story about how the Gods of Mount Olympus can play with and manipulate the loves and emotions of the mortals below them whilst also experiencing all too human emotions themselves; even Gods can get bored sometimes. Bringing this story to life were the always wonderful to watch together talents of Sophie Martin (Star Ballerina/ Aphrodite) and Christopher Harrison (Choreographer/Zeus) who as always not only bring an apparently effortless style and grace to every performance, but simply work together so well that a little bit of magic always seems to happen on-stage when they dance together,
Performing the roles of Pianist and the ever mischievous Eros, Bruno Micchiardi is so obviously having great fun with this lively and energetic role. Completing our central cast tonight were Sweetheart/Girl with the Pony Tail, Roseanna Leney; Sweetheart/Life Guard Javier Andreu; and Stagehand Nicholas Shoesmith.
Starstruck is a meticulously choreographed work and the whole company of Scottish Ballet all play their part in this performance as wonderful little interactions between people and groups are happening everywhere on stage. The attention to the details of mannerisms and the ability to tell both the larger story and many smaller stories through dance leave you in no doubt that this is the work of a master of his craft.
If you have ever felt that your movements are being manipulated by some unseen force, then that just might be true, and here on stage is a wonderfully choreographed explanation of just what might be happening to us all; perhaps we are still unwitting play-things of the Gods of Mount Olympus.
Perfectly complementing the dance on stage is the always evocative Gershwin’s Concerto in F interwoven with music from Chopin. Tonight a recording of the music by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra was played, as the still ever changing rules for live performance made having a live orchestra in the theatre “problematic”.
Starstruck has been crafted with love and attention at every detail, and the sheer pleasure of performing this work shows in everyone involved, and that in turn simply adds to the pleasure of watching Starstruck as a member of the audience.
Review by Tom King (c) 2021
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