Betty Blue Eyes NOVELLO THEATRE, LONDON lan Bennett’s film, A Private Function, is an odd thing to turn into a musical.
t doesn’t work. I am urprised Bennett allowed it. eece Shearsmith and Sarah ancashire and are cast in the ichael Palin and Maggie mith roles of a Yorkshire hiropodist and his wife, ho , in 1947, decide that the nly way to get an invitation o a civic banquet to celebrate he marriage of Princess Elizbeth and Philip Mountbatten ould be to steal the pig hich has been illegally eared for the occasion. Richard Eyre’s production egins promisingly enough ith genuine government usterity posters and newseel footage of the royal edding . There are amusing aricatures by David Bamber s the mayor and Adrian carborough as the snooping ood inspector who sports a itler moustache and wears a estapo mackintosh. The unniest scene is when ranny (Ann Emery in the iz Smith role) overhears her aughter and son-in-law plot ing to kill the pig and thinks hey are going to kill her. But he songs get in the way and he animatronic pig, though he looks good, doesn’t actully do anything. As for the anquet, surely the diners hould have been seated at a rough and the whole cast ransformed into pigs? Moonlight
A FORMER civil servant is dying. His sons refuse to visit him. Harold Pinter’s tonepoem, written when his mother was dying, feels very autobiographical. He, too, was estranged from his son. The actors who play the sons fail to do anything with their verbal duels and fantasy games in which surnames and place names are bandied in the characteristic Pinter manner. Douglas Hodge and Michael Sheen, who played the roles originally, couldn’t do anything with them either. The scenes which do work are the ones between the civil servant and his wife. They are wittily acted by David Bradley and Deborah Findlay. She sits by his bedside, embroidering, passive yet steely, secure in the knowledge that she had her revenge on him years back when she had an affair with his mistress. Since Moonlight lasts only 80 minutes the Donmar could also have revived Pinter’s much better Celebration and given the audience more value for their money.
SEVEN ballets by Les Ballets Russes sounds like bliss for balletomanes. Impresario Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929) played a major role in reinventing ballet for 20th-century audiences. His seasons in Paris between 1909 and 1912 were a sensation. The radical choreography and the original music delighted and outraged. Bakst’s exotic costumes set fashion trends. But if you haven’t got the original Fokine choreography and if you haven’t got the legendary dancers (Pavlova, Nijinsky, Karsavina, Rubinstein), you are liable to come a cropper. The Blue God with a laser serpent and a twee god in drag is a disaster. Scriabin’s music, a barbaric blast, and Wayne Eagling’s uninspired choreography never gel. Thamar is Arabian Nights kitsch. The queen has an insatiable appetite for young men, who are murdered once they have performed for her. Scheherazade is even kitschier. While the sultan is off hunting all the women in the harem decide to have an orgy with the slaves. One couple is caught in flagrante delicto and executed. The new version of Le Pavillon d’Armide looks pretty but fails to make the story of a viscount transfixed by a woman in a tapestry either clear or dramatic.
The scandal Nijinsky caused with L’Apres-midi d’un Faune is not recreated. The most authentic of all the ballets is by his sister, Bronislava; but her gypsy version of Boléro won’t satisfy anybody who has seen Maurice Béjart’s all-male version with Jorge Dorn and 23 matelots.