Torsos, Turbans and Trafficking
Le Corsaire, based on the 1814 poem of Lord Byron, is transformed by English National Ballet (ENB) and performed for the first time in its entirety by a British ballet company presenting a thrilling tale of infatuation and treachery. The story deals with various serious themes including drugs, abduction, sexual slavery, violence and death- a far cry from ENB’s festive family fun with the Nutcracker. Instead, the often brutal issues of Le Corsaire are attacked by the company with fearless gusto and energy. I must confess I am a massive Yonah Acosta fan, which may have something to do with my overall enjoyment of this show, but his exquisite skill as a performer can not be overlooked. When he flies across that stage, he really flies leaving audience members audibly gasping and marvelling at the sheer height of his split leaps.
The plot itself is crazy and at times difficult to keep up with. I’ll be honest, I had absolutely no clue as to what was going on when a gaggle of children bounded on to the stage, wearing fairy wings and carrying ornate flower jump rope-like objects. Luckily, I assumed right and it was in fact the symbol of the effect that narcotics had on the Pasha in his palace late at night. Sorry his ‘deep dreamlike sleep’, his turban sitting on his head slightly askew and what I can only assume was an opium infused shisha pipe positioned at his elbow.
As the men of the company enjoy playing pirates and slicing their swords across the set, it is comical to see their macho showcase of fighting skill coupled with some oxymoronic shoulder shimmying. Toned bare tummies of the female dancers are shown off throughout the piece providing erotic undulations and making me wish I hadn’t indulged in such a massive slab of cake at lunch!
An element I found particularly appealing with this interpretation was the feistiness of Medora. We are presented with a woman who shows evidence of subverting the archetypal ‘damsel in distress’ notion and asserts physical violence over Birbanto by stabbing him. The contrast of her wearing a dainty, feminine, Swarovski embellished nightgown and then the bloodshed Birbanto suffers at the hands of her was an exciting and rare addition to a classical ballet performance.
Quoting a line from popular film Anchorman, ‘Well that escalated quickly…’ is a perfect summation to this fantastic show. If you want to be kept on the edge of your seat and to experience a brilliant sense of befuddlement throughout, this is the show to see. Do it. Do it now.