March 2011

Cygnets on the rocks

While true blue balletomanes were flocking to London to see the English National Ballet in a highly praised new production of Swan Lake, down here in the land of Celts and bards we were seeing a far higher risk version of the same much-loved tale played out at dazzling speed on a block of ice a mere 16m by 16m.
This was Tchaikovsy according to the Imperial Ice Stars, a predominantly Russian troupe crammed to the brim with professional skaters who have been carving up the ice since early childhood. It is a spell-binding show from go to whoa with all the dancing wizardy one expects from a “normal” ballet group plus the thrills and danger of lifts, spins, twirls and aerial passages being done at breakneck speed on razor-sharp blades.
The Ice Stars also inject some nicely-judged touches of humour and audience communication that break down the barriers between the stage and the stalls. Prince Seigfried (Andrei Penkin) and his sidekick Benno (Ruslan Novoseltsev) in particular are a class act that mixes cutting edge skating with some delightful humourous moments. World-class skaters of this ilk normally perform on a stage three times this size so the danger level is raised to a nail-biting level.
And to all this athleticism and daring is added the sheer beauty of this timeless ballet, richly costumed and seamlessly danced.
Pity about the over-loud music with Tchaikosky’s memorable score sounding like a home-made recording of a Vietnamese schoolband bought from a Saigon market stall. Thankfully the sound engineers toned it down and achieved a better balance in the second half.
Interestingly, one of the four co-producers is Australian legend David Atkins and the clever set was designed and built in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Catch it if they come your way on their regular worldwide tour itinerary. It’s an exhilarating night not to be missed.

Farewell to moody Kurt

Oh dear, how will we cope? No more Kurt Wallender. The morose and moody Swedish detective has reached the end of the road. Author Henning Mankell has written his last book featuring the angst-ridden detective who has shuffled off to face a suitably gloomy future.
Seems those of us besotted by the chilly northern European school of crime writing will now have to depend on Jo Nesbo and Karin Fossum to fill the void. Like Mankell, they are light years ahead of the turgid sagas of Steig Larsson.

Varuna’s bloomer

“As the world moved from depression into war, they built a glorious yellow house that faced north so that it’s rooms were flooded with light.”
Such mis-use of the blighted apostrophe is sadly becoming the norm. The shocking thing about this instance is that it comes from, of all places, Varuna, the Blue Mountains bastion of all that is excellent in writing.