Debra Craine at the Peacock Theatre, WC2
Four out of Five Stars
It’s the biggest joke in ballet, and I mean that as a compliment. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo — those hairy men in tutus — are the foremost comedy act in the dance world, and anyone who fancies a good laugh should race to the Peacock to see one of the funniest shows in London.
The conceit is that this all-male New York troupe is actually an old-style Russian Ballet company, full of stroppy ballerinas, runaway egos and diva glamour. Their spoof biographies are a scream: “The prune danish of Russian Ballet”; “The Chernobyl Cherub”. But along with the silly names and the slapstick comes a genuine respect for traditional ballet. The Trocks put their hearts and souls into being “ballerinas” and the result is as affecting as it is hilarious.
Swan Lake is their signature work and here the comedy is broader than Odette’s shoulders. The Swan Queen, squeezed into a white tutu and sprouting chest hair, flirts shamelessly with the campest Prince this side of Carry On. What makes it all even funnier is that the cast dances the steps as written (well, almost) and when the Swans aren’t kicking each other with their pointe shoes there are times when you almost believe you are watching an authentic Swan Lake.
Raffaele Morra, eyelashes fluttering, had the honour of opening the three-week London season as Odette. He’s one of those Trocks for whom testosterone in a tutu is an instant sight gag, but he managed Odette’s variation with surprising panache.
The Tarantella pas de deux (choreography after Balanchine) is parody in a pink frilly tutu, but danced with amazing joie de vivre by Fernando Medina Gallego and Lionel Droguet. And I couldn’t stop laughing during the Grand Pas de Quatre, four squabbling ballerinas trying to hog the spotlight. Undermining the iconic 19th-century image of delicate ballerinas with galumphing pointework is one thing, but the way that these men pay homage to the graceful, feminine choreography even as they lampoon it is adorable. The Dying Swan solo (performed by Paul Ghiselin) always gets a laugh (the moulting tutu, the distressed fowl histrionics), but Paquita is where the real dancing is done.
The Trocks, led by Robert Carter’s exuberant ballerina, deliver Petipa’s great divertissement with more wit and vivacity than most serious ballet companies. Their Paquita staging is immaculate, a faithful rendition, and just because the gorgeous tutus and twinkling tiaras are worn by men, don’t for a minute think it’s not the real thing.