So last night, Housemate and myself went to see Jane Eyre in the old Kino. I was, I admit, apprehensive – Jane Eyre is one of those books I have a chequered history with. I read it in my early teens (curled up in the rocking chair, in case anyone was interested) and hated it, I read it again several years later, still hated it. The film was okay, not brilliant but not dreadful, although I did switch off for large chunks of it (and Mrs Rochester wasn’t mad enough, frankly). I’m half tempted to read the book again now, but I have a bit of a general Brontë aversion (actually, I tolerate Anne a little better as an adult but I’d quite happily burn every copy of Blethering Shite and Charlotte is just… well, dull).
Anyway, I got to thinking from there to books I really, really can’t stand (Madame fucking Bovary*) and from there to ballet adaptations of novels/plays. I’ve seen various Rom&Juls to the point I now get confused if I see a non-balletic Rom&Jul because, err hello, why are there words in it?! Maybe Shakespeare’s not a good starting point, I’m not all that hot on old Billy Shakes…
But then I thought more about what books actually have been adapted into ballets? There are two that instantly spring to mind.
Manon. Don Quixote.
Here’s the thing, I read French and Spanish at uni, I did a lot of literature modules and I read a lot of trash as a result. I read some semi good things (Pedro Paramo and La machine infernale) but mostly I read a load of old pantaloons (I’m looking at you Carcel de amor in particular).
I point blank refuse to go and see either Manon or Don Q because I’m still carrying trauma mental scars about them both from university.
Manon, semester one first year, last book, an unhappy tutorial in which I tried to convince my tutor that the best thing anyone could ever do with this novel was feed it to the seagulls. I read it three times, you know, once in French then once in English just to be doubly sure it was a load of old pantaloons and then again in French for revision. I tell you, if Abbé Prévost was alive today, I’d wring his neck. Manon was on the old telly box a couple of Christmas’ back, I tried to watch it, I really did but five minutes in I had to give up because of the hatred flare, the itchy skin, the memories of reading it screaming internally ‘this is ALL SO STUPID, they’re ALL SO STUPID’. I never thought I could hate a book so much until I read Madame fucking Bovary in second year but we’ll gloss over that. It doesn’t matter how much anyone sells Manon to me, the mere mention is enough to get my skin crawling…
Don Q’s a different kettle of fish. I read that second semester of final year for I think the module went by the jazzy name of Spanish Language, Reality and Illusion (it involved some Latin American novels with dead narrators and stuff along with DQ). I ploughed through DQ bilingually in the mid semester break and, dear God, did that book go on or what? I only forced myself to finish it to be able to write an essay on it (I did well on the essay too, surprisingly). I’ve seen bits of DQ at galas and things but I honestly couldn’t make myself sit through the whole thing; it would involve too much in head screaming about how ridiculous it is.
As starting points go, I guess two ballets I refuse to watch is a bad one. Tell you what I did like though, Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice in Wonderland. I was nervy about that one, Alice being one of my favourite childhood novels, but I was proved wrong. Rom&Jul I have mixed feelings about, depending on the choreography – I think I was spoilt by seeing the Stuttgart ballet dance the Cranko choreo first and nothing after that is ever going to quite live up to it (I’m looking at you Kenneth ‘marmite’ MacMillan**, sorry). I also enjoyed Winter Dreams (Chekov) more than I thought I was going to. There are others but my mind has drawn its now traditional blank in the face of pressure.
And then, what about balletic interpretations I’d like to see? Well, Harry Potter, of course – balletic Snape, what could be more beautiful?! After that I have no idea. Oh mind, why must you always blank me at the crucial moment? Oooh, Pride and Prej, that’d be quite glorious – think of the fun you could have with a balletic Mr Collins…
Thoughts, gentle readers? Any?
*Sorry, there are some things that have to be clarified with that. Bleurgh.
**It took a while but in the end I realised that MacMillan ballets are like Marmite, either love ‘em or hate ‘em but no grey areas in between. F’rex, I love Concerto, Rite of Spring and Elite Syncopations but can’t stand Rom&Jul, Different Drummer and Judas Tree.