A month that sees the beginning of Panto season, Privates on Parade at the Rep and The Trocks at the Hippodrome suggests that camp kitsch is the order of the day for November in Birmingham. Which is fine, when done well and done creatively – at which the Trocks proved themselves expert.
They have been presenting their own comic form of ballet en travesti for over 30 years, and it shows. It’s a slick, accomplished and enjoyable performance from the all-male drag troupe, who pull off the whole camp Royal Variety showbiz of it all whilst being genuinely outstanding dancers.
It’s a traditional show on paper, with Don Quixote Pas de Deux, Le Grand Pas de Quatre and Paquita all following the jewel in The Trocks’ particularly spangly crown; Swan Lake (Act II). The entry of Odette (Rafaelle Morra) was a sign of things to come: faultlessly graceful, beautifully preened and technically perfect, but with an incongruously hairy chest bristling out from the top of the tutu.
Men in dresses have been (apparently) amusing since Aristophanes. The Trocks run the risk of dragging out (excuse the pun) what is basically just one hackneyed joke through 2 hours of classical ballet programme. Fortunately, they are a class act, and the joke doesn’t wear too thin. Simply for their world-class, exuberant dancing skill they are a sight to behold – and that’s before you even get to the frilly pink frocks and pointe-shoes.
What separates the men from the .. err.. ballet dancers here, however, is not who is the best dancer, but who is the best comic. Although physical humour is a hallmark of the whole troupe, the stars of the show are undoubtedly Raffaelle Morra and Joshua Grant, whose comic expression sets them a little apart from the rest.
The audience laughed their way from the opening announcements to the celebratory chest-bump at the end and it’s fair to say that this show is certainly a crowd-pleaser. Yes, there are a lot of cheesy, obvious jokes (lifts bungled due to the weight of the ballerinas, spins messed up due to dizziness) and the humour is quite dated. But then, it is, after all, just boys dressing up and showing off – a little bit tiresome at times, but you’ve gotta love ‘em. A bit of good humour and not taking yourself too seriously is rare in ballet, and goes a long way.