Liam Scarlett’s first full-length ballet is revived for the first time running from tonight, 5 March 2019 until 23 March.
Victor Frankenstein is played by Federico Bonelli, Elizabeth by Laura Morera, and The Creature is Wei Wang.
Scarlett’s production uses music by Lowell Liebermann with magnificent designs from John Macfarlane, beautifully and dramatically lit by David Finn with projections designed by Finn Ross.
Its first outing left almost all the foremost dance critics underwhelmed. David Dougill for The Sunday Times said,
Liam Scarlett is a talented and eager dance-maker, one of the Royal Ballet’s cherishable homegrown choreographers, whose skill has been shown in abstract ballets since his days at the School. But tackling narrative works calls for other qualities: a sense of structure and of what the medium can bear; and, when the source of the narrative is a literary work, what to focus on and what to leave out.
And concluded by saying,
This Frankenstein has many good points, but it needs considerable rethinking, a sharper focus on the main story and a lot of scissor work.
Whereas Debra Craine for The Times although she felt the plot was sometimes sluggish, wrote,
the high points of the drama are either terrific fun, such as the Creature’s birth in an anatomy theatre, with the snap and crackle of a sinister mechanical contraption lighting up the Opera House stage, or emotionally affecting, such as the terrible murder of William, Victor’s younger brother, or downright Dexter, such as the gleeful climactic killing spree. Throughout, Scarlett’s choreography is classically adept and occasionally inspired, especially the love duets for Victor and Elizabeth, which give the dancers a chance to shine.
In a three-star review from Luke Jennings in The Guardian, he commented,
These exchanges, as technically accomplished as they are emotionally intense, show that Scarlett is a choreographer to be reckoned with. But, as previous works such as Sweet Violets and The Age of Anxiety have demonstrated, his narrative skills are not yet equal to his facility for dance-making. To turn Mary Shelley’s novel into a vivid 21st-century ballet, and to do justice to its profound and elusive subtext, you need a more experienced directorial eye than Scarlett’s.
Mark Monahan in The Telegraph knocked even more stars off (he gave it only one), saying,
Liam Scarlett is a talented abstract, neoclassical choreographer, but his Frankenstein is the least enjoyable full-evening work I have ever seen the Royal Ballet perform.
Ismene Brown put the knife in,
If a football manager produces a string of losses, the writing is on the wall and out he goes. He’s accountable — to shareholders, to the fans. The director of the Royal Ballet is not a football manager.
Nor is it easy to see to whom he would account for his plans and outcomes. The Royal Ballet governors are not like MotD panels unleashing Gary Nevilles and Alan Shearers on the play, or select committees foaming with Tom Watsons and John Whittingdales demanding explanations for the cultural strategy. They are a group of veteran ballet chums, and it appears to be inconceivable that it is their business to turn round and see if the latest Royal Ballet production scored or not. Let alone to sack the manager.
Tonight will reveal whether there is now a ‘sharper focus on the main story’ and is some ‘scissor work’ has been carried out.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.