Dancing with the Devil
Written by Aletta Lawson
Directed by Anastasia Revi
Lilian Baylis, Sadler’s Wells, 2016
Rudolf Nureyev is dying of AIDS. Refusing to accept his fate, and in his desperate hunger for life he invokes the ghost of Margot Fonteyn to find redemption. With Margot he relives his youth, his hardships, his destructive love affair with Erik Bruhn and his stupendous success as a dancer. But he and Margot see the past with very different eyes and gradually he is forced to confront himself – the biggest battle of his life. The journey that these two utterly different people – both blazing talents – embark upon is not only a love story of a kind, but is intricately woven from the very roots and fibres that made Rudolf Nureyev both a cantankerous child and consummate artist.
This is a dynamic performance based on the life of the famous ballerina. With dance, music and the visual choreography of Theatre Lab Company, Rudolf Nureyev relives some of the most important moments of his life: his early life and rise to fame from humble beginnings, his time at the Vaganova Ballet Academy, his defect from the Soviet Union, his loves, his passions, his most memorable performances with Margot Fonteyn and other prima ballerinas, and his final decline with advancing AIDS.
Rudolf Nureyev – Benny Maslov
Margot Fonteyn – Jo Price
Ellie/ Xenia Pushkin – Helen Bang
Chelkov/ KGB Agent Korkin/ Eric Bruhn/ Tito De Arias/ Rudolf’s Father – Konstantinos Kavakiotis
Sergei/ Irina Ilovna/ Maria Tallchief – Denise Moreno
Rezida Nureyev/ Clara Saint – Carolin Ott
Dr Canesi/ Pushkin/ KGB Agent Striszevski/ Raymundo DeLarrain/ Cecil Beaton/ Interviewer – Peter Rae
Creative and Production Team
Written by Aletta Lawson
Directed by Anastasia Revi
Designed by Maira Vazeou
Lighting by Yiannis Katsaris
Producers Martina Reynolds
Press Kevin Wilson Public Relations
Production Photography Cambridge Jones Photography
Accent Coach Deborah Garvey
Ballet choreography Benny Maslov
Jo Price’s red dress in performance Hiroshi Goto
Chaise Longue (in performance) Alan Brooker
Stage Manager Graham Broadbent
Camera for film Panos Kallos
Editor Miltiadis Boumis
Photography Josh Brandão and Nicolai Kornum
Costumes Hiroshi Goto
Make-up Anna Durstan
Sadler’s Wells Staff
Technical Managers Roman Bozdyk, Fraser Thompson- Noble
Events Manager Pascha Rix
From the outset, the whole production of Dancing With The Devil worked together to convey the emotional complexity of Nureyev’s life and brought a visual dynamism to his story. The use of the ensemble cast was smart as not only did it help create a very dynamic performance but through the pairing up of certain characters it almost felt like the audience were seeing the flashbacks from Nureyev’s eyes.
Konstantinos Kavakiotis demonstrated his brilliant character flexibility in all of the roles. Likewise, Helen Bang as Ellie brought a maternal, compassionate character to life. Directly contrasting her performance as Xenia Pushkin who exploited Nureyev’s childhood innocence. The dynamism seen in Kavakiotis and Bang’s performance was also seen in that of Denise Moreno, Carolin Ott and Peter Rae. It is a truly talented cast. The real beauty of Benny Maslov’s performance was in the way he moved. From the strength and command he demonstrated in the opening few minutes when he imitated an orchestral conductor to his incredible solo dance scene that received a mid-performance applause from the audience. Maslov channelled the bravado and skill of Nureyev brilliantly. Revi’s choice of casting of Jo Price as Margot Fonteyn was brilliant. Her physicality and facial features scarily resemble Fonteyn and Pricebrought elegance, conviction and snobbery to the role that fit perfectly.Their relationship was left ambiguous and the only time the complexity of their relationship was felt was in the final few moments of the show where video projection was used. This was truly beautiful.The cleverness and intricacy of Lawson’s overall script was excellent. Every scene flowed effortlessly into the next and the characters of Nureyev’s past were all given the stage time to develop and show the effect they had on Nureyev.A brilliant show where every single aspect of the performance from script to direction, acting to design, worked together to create a visually stimulating, dynamic experience.
LIVE THEATRE, *****
The magical aspect of the production needs to be emphasized. The dream state in which Nureyev wants to remain is truly bewitching. The classical music in the background, the lighting changing from Moscow to Paris and the short moments of dance all contribute to this surreal world. Nureyev is in denial over his illness and his fate. Nevertheless, spectators are not overwhelmingly saddened by the tragedy that is AIDS. It is possible to watch this performance about death and still be able to smile. The tragic turn of events does not leave everyone crying. It brings an element of hope and, in some way, an element of joy as well, knowing how happy Nureyev once was. Dancing with the Devil presents themes of nostalgia, love and passion in a varied artistic fashion. It is a tribute to Rudolf Nureyev; therefore, it is no surprise that the highlights of the evening lie in the dance.
MY THEATRE, MY ENTERTAINMENT WORLD
The splendid Maslov gets strong support from the rest of the small cast in a variety of roles. The piece deserves to have a longer life. As the portrait of a star, of a reckless and blazing talent, certainly it holds the attention. Frequently impressive and enthralling dance drama presented by the Theatre Lab Company.
The story of the tortured artist, examines the real Nureyev, good and bad and is sensitively played by Maslov. He manages to convey Nureyev’s love of his craft and how it defined him. Maslov is supported by an able cast, including Jo Price as Margot Fonteyn, laugh out loud performances by Peter Rae and a touching evocation of Nureyev’s relationship with fellow dancer, Eric Bruhn by Konstantinos Kavakiotis. Maslov conveys the power and arrogance of the world’s greatest ballerina, is highly reminiscent of Nureyev and helps the audience get lost in the performance. Theatre Lab Company is an award winning Company known for excellent visual storytelling and Dancing with the Devil is no exception.
A rare and fascinating glimpse into a unique life.
JOHNNY FOX ****
A fascinating production, and as someone who knew next to nothing about Nureyev, I found it to be highly informative as well as entertaining. An engaging piece of theatre.
LONDON THEATRE 1 ****
Revi’s strong sense of theatre is always in evidence.
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
Featuring the dynamic visual style and choreography of acclaimed Theatre Lab Company, Nureyev’s life is portrayed through a thrillingly choreographed performance.