The Moscow City Ballet is a touring company mainly based in the UK, with a sister company focusing specifically on the continent named MCB Europe. Its aim is to bring ballet to the masses, with popular works and traditional productions of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker to please the casual spectator. On this occasion, MCB’s production of Adolphe Adam’s ballet Giselle comes to the Richmond Theatre.
With a very basic programme provided I am unfortunately not able to credit any of the artists or performers by name, but only by role. The ballet’s plot is pretty simple and revolves around two lovers, Giselle and Count Albrecht; however, Albrecht is in fact already engaged to another woman. Broken-hearted, Giselle dies and is sent to a spirit world, which Albrecht visits to repent in the second act. He is trapped there by Queen Myrtha but is saved by his dead lover Giselle as they part for the last time.
A majority of the performances are overacted and contain manic gesturing to convey the plot; however, to a certain extent, this is the nature of ballet. This is a smaller stage than I think the company is used to, and a lot of the action is quite congested. A cast of mostly young dancers give sprightly and emotive performances: both Giselle and Albrecht are very confident in their roles, and give skilled and beautiful portrayals. Others in the cast are less assured, but generally the ballet technique is secure and enjoyable to watch.
The music of Adam’s ballet is lovely albeit quite repetitive. The orchestra plays well under a no-nonsense conductor, who for the most part seems quite bored of conducting the piece. One annoying gripe is the inclusion of a clavichord for the sounds of harp and organ in the orchestration. Obviously with a touring production such as this, with a small budget, one cannot afford the luxury of a full orchestration; however the electronic-sounding replacement hampers my immersion.
The set is also very simple, consisting of a traditional layered cloth style, and is effective. Overall this production is very charming and quite hilarious at the same time, and I very much enjoyed myself. Considering this is a truly well-worn production, endlessly toured, the dancers give a very fresh performance. Giselle ends with an emotional and touching finale to what is an altogether short and sweet evening.
Giselle plays at the Richmond Theatre until 18 January. For more information see the ATG website.