PLAY By R.W.S.
Ballet At The Mercury
The Mercury Theatre, Mr. Ashley Dukcs's charming little playhouse in Ladbroke Road, is chiefly known just now for the performances being given of Mr. Eliot's play, Murder in tlw Cathedral. But it is worth remembering that the Mercury was the home of ballet before it became the house of poetic drama. For years Madame Marie Rambcrt has run her ballet school here, and she has given weekly performances on Sundays and Thursdays which lovers of the dance have been quick to frequent. Several dancers now delighting a larger public at Sadlers Wells and elsewhere have graduated at the Mercury, and I do not think it is always recognised what an important part Madame Rambert has played in the renaissance of the British ballet.
A Good Evening must confess that last Sunday was the first time that I myself had seen the ballet at the Mercury. There was a very good house for an excellent programme, and I was glad to notice so distinguished a balletomane as Mr. Adrian Stokes among the audience. If there is such a thing as " chamber" ballet, you will find it here. The stage of the Mercury is not a large one, but its possibilities were fully utilised in each of the four ballets on Sunday night. All the dancers observed the limitations of their frame, and the choreography attempted nothing that could not be contained within it. The evening, in short, was a miracle of variety and tact.
They began with The Descent of Hebe, a neo-classical gem to the music of Bloch's Concerto Grosso. Miss Schooling was not perhaps quite up to dancing the name part in this, but Mr. Laing's Mercury had the right anthropomorphic glamour; Miss Lloyd made a majestic figure of Night; and Mr. Tudor, who had designed the ballet, had the stature and the grace of Hercules. But only a mythical perruquier could have produced so " permanent " a wave in his beard. The costumes and settings by Miss Nadia Benois were notably successful.
The Old and the New This was followed by Le Spectre de la Rose—a piece of very facile romanticism, which Nijinsky once made famous. Weber's music is pretty enough, and the thing was beautifully danced by Mr. Frank Staff and Miss Pearl Argyle. Miss Argyle's very accomplished work and great personal charm are well-known at Sadlers Wells and in the West End, but, like Markova, she was cradled at the Mercury. This piece in no way tried her powers, and it was Mr. Staff, a very young dancer, who mostly held our admiration. But his role is, of course, by far the more spectacular of the two.
Then came Apres Midi d'une Faune, which is among the few masterpieces of choreographic art. It is one of the fullstops of the ballet. Nijinsky created three ballets—the Apres Midi, Sacre du Printemps, and Jeu—and each in its own way is a full-stop. Style has never been carried further than in the Apres Midi, for Nijinsky knew how to simplify; and simplification is of the essence of style. This ballet has the austerity of an Ingres painting, and yet it evolves in quite a unique way the dawn of sexual desire. It captures and refines its wonder, its bewilderment, and its unrelenting purpose. Mr. Laing was once more admirable as the Faun, completely satisfying the eye and only lacking, at present, a certain reserve of strength necessary for this part. He purveyed the mood of the piece perfectly, but he did not quite make us feel the tiger's sinew under the faun's skin. I do not need recall the exquisite appropriateness of Debussy's music nor the beauty of Ballsst's costumes.
And the Latest— Lastly, there was a delightful essay in modern sophistication—Les Masques— which Mr. Frederick Ashton had very cleverly put to music by Poulenc. The stage and the dancers looked charming, thanks to Miss Sophie Fedorovitch, and both Miss Argyle and Miss Lloyd showed us another side of their talent. But it was well done throughout and proved a very "chic" epilogue to an uncommonly good evening.