georginabutler

My work as a writer and dance/theatre reviewer

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s production of ‘The Red Shoes’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, February 2017

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Matthew Bourne’s incredible dance production of classic ballet film The Red Shoes is the perfect fit for his New Adventures troupe.

Every female dancer knows the right pair of pointe shoes can change your life but the crimson slippers at the heart of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s seminal 1948 motion picture take this sentiment to the extreme. Those red shoes are symbolic of a devoted young ballerina’s turmoil as she is forced to choose between the career she lives for and the man she loves.

The Academy Award-winning film is the quintessential backstage melodrama. Cinema and dance collide in the most spectacular style to depict an absorbing tale of obsession, ambition and jealousy. The characters are distinctive and dedicated to their art. The screen is ablaze in every scene with their desire to dance, make music and move audiences; as well as their passion for living and loving. The extraordinary extended ballet sequence blurs the line between reality and surreal fantasy…

I love the film. And I love that Bourne’s stage version is clearly his way of showing how much he loves it too.

 

THE RED SHOES by Bourne, , Choreographer and Director - Mathew Bourne, Designer - Lez Brotherstoni, Lighting - Paule Constable, Plymouth, 2016, Credit: Johan Persson/

 

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NEWS: Matthew Bourne’s production of ‘The Red Shoes’ is on its way – Milton Keynes Theatre, February 2017

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Blockbuster choreographer Matthew Bourne’s contemporary ballet version of classic dance film The Red Shoes will enthral audiences at Milton Keynes Theatre next week.

The quintessential backstage melodrama tells an intoxicating story of obsession and possession, chronicling the tragedy of a ballerina whose intense desire to dance conflicts with her need for love.

Following a sold-out Christmas run at Sadler’s Wells, Bourne’s New Adventures company is bringing all the glamour of the 1948 British film to audiences beyond the capital on an extensive UK tour. Predictably, tickets have been selling exceptionally fast and extra dates have already been added.

Celebrated film-making duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger combined glorious Technicolor wizardry with emotive and dramatic performances to create their seminal motion picture. An all-consuming love for the arts generally – and dance especially – is at the heart of The Red Shoes. Significantly, Powell and Pressburger devoted plenty of screen time to dancers, ensuring their cinematic ode to the agony and ecstasy of dancing is largely told through the medium of dance itself. No wonder Bourne decided the film was the ideal source material for his latest production.

 

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REVIEW: ‘Dick Whittington’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2016

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The title character in this year’s pantomime at Milton Keynes Theatre walks for miles in search of fame and fortune, strolling to London where he has been told the streets are paved with gold. Fortunately for theatregoers in the new city, Dick Whittington provides panto gold right on our doorstep! Melding magic, merriment and mayhem, the festive extravaganza is packed full of fun and stars a Christmas cracker of a cast.

Penniless Dick is played with warmth and wit (certainly more wit than is often granted to these boyish roles in panto) by actor Chris Jenkins. After packing his knapsack and lacing up his boots, this earnest chap ventures off towards the big smoke (striding “all the way from Cheltenham”), accompanied by his feline friend Tommy the Cat. When the duo finally arrive in the confusing city of Cockney conversation, they are disappointed not to be welcomed by golden paving stones. Completely famished and ready to earn an honest living, they discover that their promised land is overrun with villainous rats. Happily, they land on their feet (“miaow!”) when Tommy proves himself to be a top-notch rat-catcher and secures them both jobs in merchant Alderman Fitzwarren’s shop, Fitzwarren’s Stores.

Kev Orkian is panto personified as the shop’s assistant Idle Jack (swiftly promoted by Alderman to “assistant shop assistant” when Master Whittington appears on the scene!). Returning to the stage in what has become his regular Yuletide gig, Orkian easily proves why he is without question one of the UK’s finest entertainers. As an internationally acclaimed comedy pianist he is well-practised at simultaneously tinkling the ivories and tickling funny bones. With no piano in Dick Whittington (all the fantastic music is overseen by “Uncle Baz”, musical director Barry Robinson), Orkian is free to roam around the stage and has the audience in stitches throughout.

 

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Written by Georgina Butler

December 14, 2016 at 2:34 pm

REVIEW: English National Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, November 2016

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We might still be in November but Christmas is well and truly on its way now English National Ballet is delighting audiences with its dreamy Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre.

Nothing gets me in the festive spirit quite like hearing the opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. There are many different versions of this seasonal ballet but the magical music is timeless and immediately evokes feelings of anticipation, enjoyment, excitement, adventure and beauty. Superbly played by English National Ballet Philharmonic, the familiar compositions envelop audience members in a blissful ballet bubble from the overture right through to the finale.

The company’s current Nutcracker, choreographed by Wayne Eagling, is wonderfully wintery and heart-warmingly whimsical. On a frosty Christmas Eve in Edwardian London a family hosts a celebratory get-together. Among the guests is Drosselmeyer, a magician and maker of toys, and his handsome nephew. Young Clara is besotted with the nephew and eagerly dances with him before receiving a painted wooden nutcracker soldier from the mysterious Drosselmeyer. Thrilled with the gift, Clara happily dances with her new doll until a scuffle with her brother Freddie results in the nutcracker being damaged. Fortunately, Drosselmeyer works his magic to fix the wounded toy before the children are sent off to bed. What happens next is a fanciful adventure. Clara encounters an evil Mouse King, battles with the Nutcracker against an army of mice and travels to the Land of Snow. Later, she is entertained by dancers from all over the world, presented with a pretty posy of waltzing flowers and comes of age dancing with her very own prince.

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during English National Ballet's dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker

 

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INTERVIEW with Barry Drummond, English National Ballet, November 2016

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English National Ballet First Artist Barry Drummond finds a few minutes between classes, performances and rehearsals to fill Georgina Butler in with his thoughts on dancing in Nutcracker and enjoying the magic of Christmas…

English National Ballet opens its acclaimed Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre this evening.

The festive family favourite boasts a sparkling seasonal story, captivating characters and delightful dancing. This ballet’s enduring popularity has seen the Company present a Nutcracker production every year since 1950, its founding year. Last Christmas, over 73,000 people made watching a performance of English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at the London Coliseum part of their holiday celebrations.

This year’s tour (beginning in Milton Keynes and then visiting Liverpool before a return to the Coliseum) continues the annual Nutcracker tradition while bringing choreographer Wayne Eagling’s version to audiences outside the capital.

First Artist Barry Drummond is already embracing the Yuletide season thanks to Nutcracker. As well as looking forward to being part of audience members’ Christmas celebrations, he is eager to make the most of his own festivities when the big day finally arrives!

 

Nutcracker is a one-way ticket to festive cheer!”

 

[English National Ballet’s Barry Drummond performing as Older Freddie in Nutcracker. Photography by Ash.]

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Written by Georgina Butler

November 23, 2016 at 9:55 am

NEWS: Escape to a winter wonderland with English National Ballet’s dreamy ‘Nutcracker’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, November 2016

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Prepare to be swept up in the magic of Christmas as English National Ballet brings its sparkling production of Nutcracker to Milton Keynes Theatre from Wednesday.

The Company’s dancers spent last week wowing audiences at Sadler’s Wells with Akram Khan’s Giselle.

Now, they are carefully rehearsing Nutcracker – the dazzling festive favourite which is guaranteed to enchant family members of all ages – to ensure their usual superb technique and artistry is showcased at its very best.

Masterful Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score, Wayne Eagling’s exuberant choreography and Peter Farmer’s exquisite designs effortlessly transport us to a frost-dusted Edwardian London.

 

English National Ballet Nutcracker Scene

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Written by Georgina Butler

November 21, 2016 at 6:30 pm

REVIEW: English National Ballet in Akram Khan’s ‘Giselle’ – Sadler’s Wells, November 2016

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Incredible dancing. Intense storytelling. Totally immersive. English National Ballet’s new Giselle by Akram Khan is an epic dance experience. Everything about the production is so inspired that, after joining an elated audience in a lengthy standing ovation, I left Sadler’s Wells utterly convinced that no words will ever do this masterpiece justice.

The company, under the direction of Tamara Rojo, is intent on evolving the art of ballet. While still honouring the classical tradition (the dancers begin their Nutcracker season at Milton Keynes Theatre next week), English National Ballet is adding amazing diversity to its repertoire with fresh new works. Following the resounding success of Khan’s Dust for the Lest We Forget programme, anticipation has been sky-high for his Giselle.

In short, it is a triumphant re-imagining of the 1841 Romantic Era ballet. All the essential themes – love, betrayal, revenge, the opposing realms of life and death – remain but Khan’s vision teases out the dark undertones that have always been there. Dragged to the surface, these elements are expressed with visceral urgency, arresting intent and harrowing sensibility.

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