Review: The Royal Ballet in Frankenstein (5/17/16)

The Royal Ballet has done it again, putting on a smashing (and brand new) production of Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein.

I basically have nothing bad to say about it. The dancing was good from everyone, from the corps de ballet up to the principals. Particular commendation to Steven McRae (The Creature) for a truly phenomenal solo in Act II. The children in the production were quite charming and obviously well trained; Guillem Cabrera Espinach (William) was very cute and did well keeping up with the adults he was dancing with.

The choreography was very, very impressive. In particular, Scarlett has a gift for pas de deux. Whether it’s a woman and a man or two men dancing together, it’s always fluid and lovely and very often surprising (with a few really, really interesting lifts for bonus points). Federico Bonelli and Laura Morera had a couple of rough moments, but overall it was very good. Bonelli also did some great partnering of McRae.

I really enjoyed seeing this in the cinemas, as it gave me a chance to really see the subtle facial expressions that the dancers put into their characters. Fine acting all around — Meaghan Grace Hinkis was very engaging and sympathetic as Justine, Laura Morera obviously put a lot of thought into her character, and Steven McRae had some absolutely stellar (and creepy) facial expressions which really emphasized the Creature’s vulnerability.

On that note, I greatly appreciated that the ballet followed faithfully the book’s gothic romantic storyline, as opposed to the more “horror” version that’s become entrenched in popular culture. If I were to criticize anything, though, it’s here that I would do it. Frankenstein has a bit of a pacing issue, with too much time spent on Victor’s home life, and not enough on Victor’s obsession with death and his creation of the Creature, which is particularly rushed.

One final note: as always, the Royal Opera House has outdone itself when it comes to production values. Each act opened with beautiful painted scrims and clever light work (I particularly liked the skull that turned to face the audience at the beginning of Act II). The sets were beautifully built, I loved all the little details (sooooo many creepy skeletons and little jars of specimens in the operating theater!). The costumes were also  fantastic. Particularly the corps de ballet’s costumes for the waltz in Act III – those were STUNNING.

All in all, it’s a wonderful production that could very easily become a classic in time. If you have a chance to see it, you definitely should.

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