BALLET NACIONALE DE CUBA
Sadlers Wells - By SAM JONES
IT is sweet and fitting that Cuban ballet should produce such
international stars as current sensation Carlos Acosta.
Not only does it have the unstinting support of its head of state
but it has the extraordinary Alicia Alonso at its helm.
This doyenne of her countrys classical ballet tradition
danced with Markova and was shown her steps by such legends of
the artform as Fokine, Massine and Balanchine. It is hardly believable
that she achieved all this having gone blind during her second
The Cuban National Ballet is her baby and even aged 83 she is
its driving creative force. Somehow she managed to fuse an innate
sense of the rhythm and musicality of the Caribbean with the purest
of ballets practice to create something quite unique.
The Cuban ballet dancer seems to have it all strength,
agility, style, personality, grace, and, in many ways above all,
a real grasp of tempo. Every one of the soloists could build an
international career. The men, in particular, could be absolute
The evening was a showcase of short excerpts from seven of the
companys classical repertoire. From their magnum opus, Giselle,
to the Sinfonia de Gottschalks Creole Party, with Swan Lake,
The Nutcracker and Don Quixote along the way, among others. The
night began with Giselle and one can see why the companys
rendition of it is an audience pleaser.
Hayna Gutierrez and Victor Gili danced the anguished second act
pas de deux like flowing water, she floating across the stage
effortlessly in his arms. The women have such expressive upper
bodies and Gutierrez is a masterclass in port de bras. The companys
technical genius is Sadaise Arencibia.
As Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty and Odette in Swan Lake
she demonstrates that there is little she cannot do.
Partnering Michelangel Blanco, the Beauty pas de deux is a rather
taut pairing, maybe due to first night nerves, for by the time
they come on again in Swan Lake it is much more relaxed and languid.
By then, too, the remaining first half couple have distinguished
themselves; Anette Delgado and Romel Frometa in the Nutcracker.
Delgado is a charming dancer, with silent, playful pas de chats
and a sparkling smile. Viengsay Valdes is another technician,
completely at home in Don Quixote.
With partner Joel Carreno, who takes the evenings prize
for the most exciting jetes (and that is saying something for
these athletic men who seem almost able to leap off the stage)
she is a sassy Kitri, drawing spontaneous applause for some of
her more daring feats of balance.
The corps de ballet was occasionally rather lacklustre in, for
example, Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker. But in Swan
Lake the powerfully expressive arms come into the own, and the
corps is a breathtaking addition to the action. A wonderful evening.
Until August 20
0870 737 7737
Blairs Nazi roots
exposed with wit
HITLER WROTE 20 POP SONGS
Etcetera - By TOM FOOT
WE have all been misled. All those hours studying
World War II at secondary school and the teachers had it wrong.
Hitler was not moved to world conquest by evil, greed or envy,
but because his agent did not appreciate his pop songs.
This is not a world exclusive, I must report, but a satire on
Tony Blair, whose university rock band The Ugly Rumours
never made it big.
Hitler and Blair strike up a dreamy relationship in this outlandish
production from Theatre de C**t.
The actors aged between 18 and 22 perform 20 scenes
from everyday life, although this companys take on everyday
life may be a little different to your own.
Londoners walk around with Swastikas and Britains workers
are turning into another bunch of unthinking henchmen.
Blair being at one with Hitler is hard to swallow,
and the zealous Nazi salutes from Conrad Murray will make you
There was a point when I thought this might rival The Man Behind
the Iron Mask debacle for worst musical of the century. But punctuating
Theatre de C**ts militant script are flashes of rare skill
worth the entrance fee alone.
In one scene, a young private school boy gets happy-slapped by
kids in the street. This savage beating is choreographed superbly
perhaps a little too knowingly.
The actors work together in slow motion, as if you were watching
on a mobile phone, to create one of the best scenes I have seen
at the fringe all year.
Last week one local paper reported residents disbelief that
the Etcetera theatre would stoop so low as to hire Theatre de
C**t. Im tired of hearing five-year-old children calling
each other swear words, mused one resident, if the
theatre company need to resort to these tactics the show probably
isnt worth seeing.
In fact, if that person so alarmed by societys slide
into oblivion would see the play they would learn a bit
about why they hear five-year-olds swearing.
As for the name of the theatre company whats all
the fuss about? Shakespeare used literally hundreds of puns on
the word and no one bats an eyelid.
Until August 20
020 7482 4857
Puppets give teenage
tale extra dimension
VIOLET, 13, is lonely, trapped in a family she
doesnt understand and a body she doesnt like.
Her best friend is brother Will but he often turns out to be her
worst enemy. Violet retreats into a fantasy world in which the
magical stories of her favourite author Caspar Dream form a comforting
Then new girl at school, boy-magnet and famous actors daughter
Jasmine, actually wants to be her friend. So is this a wish come
true? Not quite, as this charming adaptation of Jacqueline Wilsons
best selling novel of the same name demonstrates, but it does
help create an unexpected fairy-tale ending.
Powerful performances, particularly from Sarah OLeary as
the wistful Violet, and James Camilleri as her wayward brother,
propel the story neatly forward, while director Vicky Ireland
uses puppetry to illustrate Violets attempts to balance
her make believe world with ever encroaching reality.
These beautifully made rod and hand puppets illustrate characters
and situations as the action on stage takes place independently.
When Violets dad becomes angry, a fairy ogre floats into
view, all mouth and belly, just like him. The Enchantress fairy
represents Jasmine, lovely but, like Violet, all alone. Unfortunately,
you have to be fairly close to the stage to be able to appreciate
the loving and intricate detail that puppet maker Lee Threadgold
has put into them. Despite the mystical manoeuvres, Midnight never
descends into mawkishness.
In true Wilson style, Ireland displays a firm grip on reality
as Violet grapples with her growing pains, and difficult issues
like adoption and cot death are thrown into the heady mix. Original
music by Steven Marwick, sadly not live, provides the perfect
accompaniment to this tale of a girls coming of age.
Until August 28
020 7863 8222
wins the day for nostalgia trip
New End Theatre by MARTINA ANZINGER
ITS hard to believe that this is the stuff
that had em rolling in the aisles more than a century ago.
In todays entertainment universe of wall-to-wall gangsta
rap and visceral shoot-em-up screen violence, this kind of soirée
might look like a trip too far down Memory Lane.
Adopting an archly intimate conversational style, Sheila Steafel
delivers a potpourri of plums long past their sell-by
date, which could have added up to a hill of nostalgia beans,
smothered in treacly coy frivolity. But not with a master of the
There wasnt even any need to shoot mystery pianist Paul
Smith his timing was as uncanny as Steafels technique
Just as you believe there is a pianist expertly tickling the ivories
behind the screen, so you forget Steafel the consummate trouper,
and happily enter the world of an late Victorian maam with
an engagingly risqué repertoire of song and verse.
For her new one-woman show the comedienne has dug up an eclectic
melange of late Victorian-early Edwardian ditties, poems and monologues
from the vaults of the British Library to re-create the popular
theatrical obsessions of a bygone age. Arrestingly clad in a cream
lace full-length ensemble the ultimate in pukka Victorian
chic she welcomes you into her period drawing-room set
complete with screen, sofa and potted plant, delighted that youd
Pacing smoothly to and fro, Staefel then skips sassily in and
out of characters reminiscent of Alfred P Doolittle, Little Dorrit
and the Chimney Sweeper. And her invitation to sing-along and
join in willingly accepted adds to the magic of
the nostalgic moment.
But theres a hidden edge in the play list. From The News
Boys Debt and When Is My Birthday, Daddy? to Therell
Be No Wedding Here Tonight, maudlin titles mask lifes darker
realities lost love, drunkenness, drugs, death and prostitution.
Music Hall, originally evolved from the song and supper rooms
of the 1850s, was shunned by polite society for its association
with the beer halls and gin clubs of the working classes.
But it offered brief moments of comic release from the travails
of mass urbanisation during the hey-day of Britains industrial
So pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile,
Until August 28
020 7794 0022