34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
EASILY THE BEST VERSION: Coleman and Collier are perfect for Ashton
, 14 Dec. 2009
This review is from: La Fille Mal Gardée [DVD]   (DVD)
Now this one's a cracker.
It's the most entertaining ballet in the repertoire, it doesn't date and it doesn't tire. There are some comments on here about the look of the production: some people say it looks 'dated' - well, that's the whole point. The decor, which is 100% traditional, and by a very English cartoonist (Osbert Lancaster), is not afraid to send itself up a bit, and the ballet is hazily nostalgic in a countryside that could never exist except in our fondest imaginings. It's all the more glorious because of it. (If you don't believe me, ask yourself how many times you have seen chickens dancing!)
There are now quite a few versions of the ballet available on DVD. Think carefully before leaping for your wallet. 'La Fille Mal Gardee' was created for the Royal Ballet by Sir Frederick Ashton, so I'd go for this one that was produced in 1981 - during his lifetime. It has all Ashton's hallmarks, and it's far and away the best and most enjoyable performance.
Some people of course will go for the more recent DVD featuring (or rather 'starring') Carlos Acosta, simply because they've heard of him. Let's face it, he's good at publicity in the way that a lot of modern stars are good at publicity - and the Royal Ballet has been quick to cash in on this. He's also very showy, and a crowd-pleaser - but he's not really suitable for 'La Fille Mal Gardee'. (While he may be excellent in certain roles, nobody could accuse him of being subtle, and subtlety is something you need by the bucketload with an Ashton ballet. You certainly need it with 'Fille' - and you also have to look as though you don't mind dancing with lengths of ribbon. I can't help feeling that Acosta finds ribbon a bit of a challenge to his macho image.)
There are no such problems with Michael Coleman in this earlier BBC production. He is perfect for the role of Colas, and the lovely Lesley Collier (Lise) is fortunate in her partner, who has warmth and tenderness stamped all over him. Coleman also executes the bravura bits to spectacular perfection, and if you want to see more of his leaps and jumps, have a look at his performance of Jeremy Fisher in 'The Tales of Beatrix Potter' - a delightful feature film with some exquisite dancing, also created by Ashton.
'La Fille Mal Gardee' is here conducted by John Lanchberry, who adapted Herold's original score - and he milks it for all it's worth, obviously relishing every swipe of his baton. This is ballet to enjoy on every level: chickens, clog-dancing widows, village idiots, haymaking peasants - all human life is here, wrapped up in the dusty warmth of a summer afternoon, and you'll need a box of tissues handy for the romantic bits. They never fail.
Trust me: this is one for the collection - give me vintage Collier and Coleman every time!
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