Glitz and glamour, fun and frolics, Scottish Ballet’s Starstruck is a delight, just what we need after 18 months of closed theatres. A revival of Gene Kelly’s Pas de Dieux (pun intended), first performed at the Paris Palais Garnier in the 60's, this is a mixture of ballet and jazz, revolutionary in its day, to the music of Gershwin’s Concerto in F and Chopin. It is Gene Kelly’s love letter to ballet, and his only one for stage. Painstakingly reconstructed by Christopher Hampson and Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, from Kelly’s scribbled notes, there is also additional choreography by Hampson. Dynamism characterizes the show: the two styles of dance, long lines of ballet, leaps defying gravity contrast with earthy, syncopated jazz moves and plenty of hip action, classical and jazz music but also duets of tender love with the belting, energetic ensemble jazz just like a Hollywood movie musical.
Glitz and glamour, fun and frolics.
A ballet within a ballet, the story alternates between rehearsal and the show itself - the story of bored Aphrodite in Olympus coming down to earth with Eros to amuse themselves playing havoc with the hearts of two mortals, a lifeguard and his pony-tailed girlfriend, a vengeful Zeus and eventual reconciliation. A great opportunity for contrast between the scruffy leotards of the dancers in rehearsal, the bare set of ballet barres and mirror with the glamour of the Olympian costumes and the ensemble cavorting on the beach in the south of France (modelled on the original Parisian 60's outfits).
The characterisation in Hampson’s prologue and epilogue is one of the chief highlights of the show. The thoughtful Choreographer, performed sensitively by Evan Loudon trying out moves; mischievous Eros performed by Jerome Anthony Barnes bursting on stage in jerky jumps in a nice contrast to the Choreographer’s more sweeping, sensual moves. Marge Hendrick, chief ballerina, (replacing Sophie Martin) arrives in smart, flashy turquoise suit and high heels, unlike the other dancers in their leotards. She is all diva and makes it clear she is in charge. Later Hendrick as Aphrodite in rainbow tutu is cheekily seductive. The range of Loudon and Hendrick's characterisation is stunning in the gradual stop-start making-up after the couple’s falling out. Jealousy, arrogance, anxiety, sorrow and many in between stages are portrayed not only in body language but facial expressions. (Do bring opera glasses if you can.) The psychological truth of such a bitter-sweet relationship will touch the heart of anyone who has experienced this.
But lightness of touch, wit and humour are the overall mood of Starstruck. The diva’s naughty strip tease and a camp moment, Zeus strutting in his bronze helmet with its red feathers, a brilliantly choreographed fight between Loudon and the stage-hand, Rimbaud Patron for flirting with the diva and the imaginative play with mirror images when the choreographer dances with his reflected self, or Hendrick’s now you see her/now you don’t. I’d like to have seen more of that - but maybe that’s another show.
The mortal couple, Simon Schilgen as the Lifeguard and Aisling Brangan as his girlfriend, are equally good. Glorious sets by Lez Brotherston, projections on a back screen of Olympian clouds, Paris upside down, the blue, blue sea with the lip of a wave uncurling to the gloriously mauve thunder clouds and lightning let loose by an angry Zeus all help create the uplifting mood of this joyful show. Sadly the live run has ended but you can still view a full feature film shortly to be released.
Please note the cast reflects the performance I attended on Oct 16th evening in Edinburgh.