Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Chelmsford Ballet Company, Pineapple Poll and Carnival Of The Animals, Civic Theatre, Chelmsford March 18-21 2015

As a veteran of many delightful and entertaining productions by this amateur company with professional guest artistes, their annual shows are events that I look forward to with enormous anticipation.
Regular audience members always appreciate the elegant and disciplined professional presentation of the dancers of all ages, with not a hair out of place and freshly designed costumes made by the loyal in-house team of parents and supporters led by Ann Starling.
This year's choice of was a double bill of John Cranko's now vintage ballet Pineapple Poll which was originally arranged and conducted by Charles Mackerras. 
Based on Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore it is a thoroughly jolly entertainment about a team of young ladies who disguise themselves as sailors in order to follow the men of the ship when it sails. Much confusion follows but the ending is a very happily romantic one.
Choreographer Annette Potter tweaked Cranko's original to suit the varying ages and capabilities of the company. Scarlet Mann was an extremely flirtatious and fiery Poll with guest artiste Stephen Quildan as Jasper the Potboy determined not to take no for an answer from her. Together with Megan Mclatchie's elegant Blanche, Company Chairperson Marion Pettet as a constantly bustling around chaperone Mrs Dimple, and Andrew Potter as the bluff, self-admiring Captain Belaye, everyone was smartly and colourfully costumed, exuding an air of joyousness.
The jolly music was a bit too loud at first, especially for the two-week-old brother of one of the cast who was in the audience at the start.
Then came the first big surprise of the evening. Christopher Marney, choreographer, dancer with Matthew Bourne's companies, and Patron of the Company, had created for the company his own distinctive and witty ballet Carnival Of The Animals. Set to music by Camille Saint-Saens, Francis Poulenc's Rag and Mazurka from Les Biches and Johann Strauss II's The Blue Danube this was an exuberant and ebullient piece of entertainment, beautifully danced by the company and guests.
Set in a 1930s London Theatre we were entertained by what was to me a totally new side of Marion Pettet's acting and dancing. She was the very elegant and extremely demanding socialite mother of guest artiste Jasmine Wallis's Girl who wanted to dance in a modern fashion, but Pettet's mime was absolutely clear in its intentions to remain unmoved by this. Her graceful performance was underlined by a polished and very precise technique.
As the moderniser, whose head is turned by Stephen Quildan's factotum and stage hand, Central School of Ballet's Jasmine Wallis's lively and expressive  performance was a delight from start to finish. This ballet also gave Stephen Quildan opportunities to show off his strength and great capacity for acting as well as some amazing aerial performing.
This ballet with its very French atmosphere and look, really suited them all while Chris's great jokes delighted the audience. The scenery was classically simple, including some real trees which showed off the brilliant costuming including Autumn leaf-shaped and seasonal-coloured tutus plus some delicious white dresses.
Mary Redman 31.3 2015

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