Review: Ballet Black at the Linbury, Royal Opera House
The dancers shine in a powerful double bill of South African-themed stories
by Debra Craine
June 17 2019
This South African-themed programme is one of the strongest offerings in Ballet Black’s already impressive repertoire. The artistic director Cassa Pancho struck gold when she commissioned The Suit from the freelance choreographer Cathy Marston and Ingoma from company member Mthuthuzeli November. Together they are an exciting showcase for her company.
The Suit won a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for best classical choreography while José Alves — its star — won outstanding male dancer (classical). And deservedly so. The Suit is a marvel of condensed but lucid storytelling (not something Marston is always adept at) that packs an emotional wallop well mined by its Ballet Black cast.
Based on a South African short story by Can Themba, it’s a creepy tale of marital infidelity, punishment and guilt set in 1950s Johannesburg. Simply realised on a dark stage with just a few adaptable props — chairs, a coat rack, a briefcase, the titular suit — and set to a patchwork score (the Kronos Quartet in collaboration with Philip Feeney), it highlights Philemon’s heartache when he finds his wife, Matilda, in bed with her illicit lover, Simon. Instead of leaving her, however, Philemon torments her with the suit Simon left behind, forcing Matilda to eat with the garment and take it for walks until shame finally overwhelms her…
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