Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardée

Birmingham Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee (c) Indy Sagoo Photography

Birmingham Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee (c) Indy Sagoo Photography - Credit: Archant

The Birmingham Royal Ballet embarks on a national tour this autumn with, as Emma Samms discovers, quite possibly, one of the most charming ballets ever created

Birmingham Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee

Birmingham Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee - Credit: Archant

Many people’s first exposure to ballet is a Christmas visit to The Nutcracker, but with a disappointing lack of story in the second half, I strongly believe that a far better option as a first ballet for old and young alike would be La Fille Mal Gardée.

This ballet, adapted by Frederick Ashton in the 1960’s, is chock-full of story, easily followed with the help of a wonderfully illustrative score and is all at once funny, joyous and romantic.

Birmingham Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee

Birmingham Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee - Credit: Archant

Set in bucolic English countryside, La Fille Mal Gardée has wealthy, Jane Austen-style landowners, a beautiful girl, a handsome (but poor) boy, a panto-esque dame, dancers dressed as chickens and a real Shetland pony. It also has some spectacularly good dancing.

Momoko Hirata was truly delightful as Lise, a technically demanding role that she breezed through with an endearing lightness and joy. Mathias Dingman as Colas gave us, as ever, his strength and skill but for this role he added both a gentle tenderness and a dazzling Tom Cruise smile, totally justifying Lise’s love for him. Even surrounded by broad comedy, this pair’s romance radiated a heart-warming sincerity.

Birmingham Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee (c) Roy Smiljanic

Birmingham Royal Ballet's La Fille Mal Gardee (c) Roy Smiljanic - Credit: Archant

James Barton’s Alain, the tragically simple and thwarted suitor of Lise, gave us laugh-out-loud humour, pathos and even some brilliant footwork. After being rejected by Lise and trying in vain to find someone to accept his engagement ring, the moment he offered it to us, the audience, was truly heart-breaking.

Michael O’Hare, Widow Simone and also Senior Ballet Master of the company, seemed to enjoy every minute he was on stage, thus did we. The entire company of dancers filled the theatre with their happy smiles and their camaraderie but their joie de vivre was always supported by their universally high technical capabilities.

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So, if you’ve never seen a ballet before or if you’re an expert and want to see some exceptionally good dancing or even if you’d just like to spend a couple of hours smiling and laughing and have your heart truly touched, then the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardée is for you.

Catch the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardée at the Birmingham Hippodrome up until Saturday, September 29.

Click here to see the full list of performance venues and dates.

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