The Trocks continue to delight London ★★★★★

Graham Watts, Bachtrack
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Normal service was resumed, in this second programme of the London season from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo notably, in the return of the offstage announcement, delivered in the mock-disdainful accent of an English-speaking Russian, identifying a raft of cast changes, ending always with the news that Olga Notgoodenuv is indisposed because she has run off to dance with Les Grands Ballets de Luton (or similar).  It was missing from the opening night of last week’s programme (due to some technical fault, I understand) and, since “the announcement” is such a part of Trocks’ folklore, it was sorely missed. (Substitute Nureyev for Notgoodenuv and base Les Grands Ballets du Marquis de Cuevas in Luton and one can understand the exceptional wit in these opening texts).

That voice sets the scene so deliciously for the gentle comedy, slapstick farce and excellent dancing to follow.  Here, the traditional opening white act was a complete Les Sylphides, usually known as ChopEniana in the Trocks repertoire, which began with as beautiful a tableau as one is ever likely to see in any “straight” performance of Fokine’s epoch-changing abstract ballet.

As well as being a passable second cousin to the original, this is lampooning at its most creative. The ballerinas are men but they dance gracefully (outside of the humour) and with considerable strength. I imagine that any professional ballerina would be happy to scythe through the air with the jeté of Nina Enimenimynimova (the alter ego of Long Zou); a dancer of impeccable technique who is completely believable as a classical ballerina, with or without the humour.

Exposing and exaggerating every dancer’s worst fears and envious thoughts lies at the heart of the parody in this Les Sylphides. Is the tulle of my skirt lying as it should?  Am I leading with the correct leg? Have I raised the wrong arm? Why is she always at the front? Is that my auntie in the audience?  Am I standing in the right place? Is Boris drunk, again?  Some of these thoughts exist unobserved in any performance but with the Trocks they are brought front and centre!  This Les Sylphides is like asking Rowan Atkinson to play Hamlet both as Maigret and Mr Bean. It is a wonderful mix of serious, comical, pastiche mixed with envy, self-doubt, rivalry and a swig or two of bourbon.

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