Kenneth MacMillan’s Prince of the Pagodas is a twentieth century take on the nineteenth century classic. Indeed there are strong parallels between Pagodas and the likes of Sleeping Beauty. However, what I discovered last night is that it’s best not to view Pagodas with raging tooth ache that painkillers won’t touch. I spent the first act in a state of high confusion not sure if it was the ballet itself (baboons? Huh? What?!) or pain induced delirium. A couple of painkillers and half a tube of Bonjela (I exaggerate, a little) in the first interval meant the second act was largely bearable but things went downhill again in the third.
The plot of Pagodas is pretty much your average fairytale only instead of having to kiss a frog to find her Prince, Rose has to kiss a salamander to turn him back and defeat her evil half sister. She’s guided through this by the benevolent Fool who manages to be everywhere all at once and, let’s face it, the one who’s really pulling all the strings. On the way Rose has to discard the four Kings who want to marry her (or her evil half sister, I’m not sure, I got confused) for the kingdom.
All things considered, it’s not an entire waste of an evening and Pagodas does have a lot to commend it (and, y’know, it did launch Darcey Bussell into the stratosphere) – the Rose/Prince pas de deux, the third act pas d’action – even if I did spend parts of the evening with a ‘huh’ expression plastered across my face. And, let’s face it, there’s every chance that wasn’t related to what was going on, more my tease of a wisdom tooth and the referred pain across my jaw. So maybe I’m not in any real place to be passing judgement.
Marianela Nuñez as Princess Rose was, as ever, complete perfection ably supported by the ever reliable Nehemiah Kish who made an oddly attractive salamander… Their pas de deux were a complete joy. Say what you like about MacMillan, the man knew how to choreograph a good pas de deux. Tamara Rojo’s Princess Epine was equally fabulous. There’s a risk with the role that it could descend too easily into a Carabosse but at no moment did I ever think that was going to happen with La Rojo at the helm. Her Epine is controlled evil, that icy, brewing under the surface, cold in the eyes kind of evil that sends a chill down your spine. But really, for me, it was Alexander Campbell’s Fool who stood out, making light work of tricky steps and jumps and all the while remaining a steady, omnipresent guiding hand to restore the kingdom to what it should be.
Incidentally, my tooth still hurts so my judgment is probably a little cloudy. I don’t know that I’d put Pagodas up there with my ‘must sees’ but I’d certainly recommend that you do see it and I’d certainly be interested to see it again.
All images via the Google machine, click to link back to original source. All opinions my own.