A rousing first night at the ROH for Liam Scarlett’s Asphodel Meadows (part of a triple bill), had many of the audience on their feet applauding the first major piece by this talented young choreographer. When the last note had ended I wanted it to start all over again.
I’m already a fan of the intimate sensibility of Scarlett’s work, and he brought us more, but now in a substantial work, with a classical Balanchine-like structuring and formality (a set of three pas de deux set, jewel-like, within the corps), and an emotional and dramatic sensibility which made me think of Macmillan. Poulenc’s sharply rhythmed Double Piano Concerto with its gloriously slow Mozartian second movement, is an astute choice.
Design was deftly handled with the maturity of John Macfarlane and Jennifer Tipton, who supported the morbid beauty of Scarlett’s world with a potent atmosphere that felt like the daylight had been sucked out of it. It builds on Consolations and Liebestraum, which was Scarlett’s offering for the new works at the Linbury last May (it too explored a compulsive language between Tamara Rojo and Bennet Gartside, who are the substance and character of that tender second movement).
It was also a great night for the stage crew – 3 complex sets and something like 100 crew involved (about 36 dancers performing), with a staggering 37 scenery Qs in the Scarlett piece alone. Macfarlane’s set had 2 cloths, false pros, an upstage flown strip of light (boxed fluorescents faced in BP), and 3 sets of 3 black legs on sliders which tracked to create a negative image of the designer’s painterly ‘barcode’ backcloth design.
Thematically, the designs for the triple bill gelled completely: long trains on skirts in both Wheeldon’s Electric Counterpoint and Mats Ek’s Carmen, polka dots and stripes, metallic colours, monotones and neutrals – moments of outrageousness underpinned by a classical solidity. Tamara Rojo had the evening in the palm of her hand; Kirstin McNally was superb amid a virtuosic casting of solos, duets and character parts.
Musically terrific: Rodion Shchedrin’s arrangement of Carmen is faultless, Reich’s Electric Counterpoint, with James Woodrow again on electric guitar, is always worth it (although best when it’s so loud you can feel the floor reverberating) and then of course Barry Wordsworth conducting Poulenc.