DANCING WITH THE DEVIL
by Aletta Lawson.
Lillian Bayliss Studio to 29 June
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Roseberry Avenue, London EC1R 4TN to 29 June 2016.
Sun – Wed 7.45pm. Mat Wed 2.30pm.
Runs 90 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7863 8000.
Review: William Russell 26 June.
An enthralling tale about a radiant star
Arguably the greatest male dancer of the last century the infuriating, dazzling and impossible to ignore Rudolph Nureyev is remembered in this strange, but frequently impressive and enthralling dance drama presented by the Theatre Lab Company.
Dancers are not usually great with words, and to start with Benny Maslov, who plays Nureyev, is rather stiff, the language stilted – broken English abounds – and one fears the worst. But some 20 minutes into the play Maslov dances and things start to soar.
It is a brilliant turn which suggests the animal magnetism with which the Russian entranced audiences.
Lawson’s play opens with Nureyev in his Paris apartment plagued by ghosts from his past. He is HIV positive – he died in 1993 aged 55 – and among the ghosts is Margot Fonteyn, his most famous partner. It is through their conversation that we learn about his life, about how a peasant boy from Irkutsk became a star of the Kirov ballet, defected to the West in 1961 when the company was in Paris and became a global star.
His legendary partnership with Fonteyn began the following year.
Lawson does not actually have any fresh insights to reveal, but she has contrived a thoroughly engrossing tale although it could be improved by letting Nureyev dance a little earlier. Blessed with stunning looks and personality, his series of lovers were male or female, not that back then anybody mentioned it.
Nureyev and Fonteyn may even have had a relationship which went beyond the stage, although she was devoted to her husband, the distinctly dodgy Panamanian politician Tito de Arias. Lawson suggests she had an abortion having become pregnant by Nureyev, although one will never know.
The splendid Maslov gets strong support from the rest of the small cast in a variety of roles and Jo Price makes Fonteyn, a splendidly gracious matronly figure whose career was coming to its end only to find it reborn with the arrival out of the blue of this new impossible, temperamental partner. There are some choice moments including Nureyev’s initial encounter with Bruhl, played by Konstantinos Kavakiotis, which ends with their literally tearing their clothes off, and his encounter with Cecil Beaton, camp and incredibly grand, played by Peter Rae, which did not go at all well.
The piece deserves to have a longer life although where its home should be is the problem. As the portrait of a star, of a reckless and blazing talent, however, certainly it holds the attention.
Rudolf Nureyev: Benny Maslov.
Margot Fonteyn: Jo Price.
Ellie/Xenia Pushkin: Helen Bang.
Chelkov/ KGB Agent/Eric Bruhl/ Tito de Arias/ Nureyev’s father: Konstantin Kavakiotis.
Sergei/ Irina Llovna/ Maria Tallchief: Denise Moreno.
Rezida Nureyev/Clara Sant: Carolin Ott.
Dr Canes/ Pushkin/ KGB Agent/ Raymundo DeLarrain/Cecil Beaton/Interviewer: Peter Rae.
Director: Anastasia Revi.
Set & Costume Design: Maira Vazeou.
Lighting Design: Yiannis Katsaris.
Choreography: Benny Maslov.