The Russian State Ballet of Siberia accompanied by The Russian State Ballet Orchestra of Siberia present Giselle at The Grand Theatre, Blackpool. It is part of a three night run, also presenting The Snow Maiden and The Nutcracker. It is a return visit for the company to this wonderful theatre within the shadow of the famous Blackpool Tower.

It is also the second time I have seen Giselle performed, the last time was in Covent Garden, London by the English National Ballet Company. My expectations were high, the setting was beautiful, the program was glossy and well put together but, unlike the reviews of the first performance of this ballet in June 1841, which were “full of praise for performances that surpassed the expectations of the captivated audience”, my experience was sadly underwhelming.

There were some real jewels in this performance, Mana Kuwabara dancing Giselle was captivating and beguiling. She danced with grace and beauty and wherever she was on stage she captivated me. When she partnered Ivan Karnaukhov, dancing Count Albrecht, the combined movement was, at times exquisite and deeply moving in the second act.

The Corps de Ballet were excellent, creating a backdrop of interesting characters in the village scene and the beautiful synchronisation of the ghostly Wilis.

The Orchestra played the wonderful score with great sensitivity under the excellent direction of conductor Alexander Yudasin. The solo viola and oboe were particularly haunting.

The problem I had was that such beauty was wrapped up in the equivalent of last year’s Christmas paper! The set looked tired and dated and remained almost the same throughout. The makeup was at times too exaggerated, the Duke of Courland looked more like a pantomime dame than the father of the bride!

The lighting was appalling, the second act was meant to start at midnight but there was no noticeable change from the lighting in the first act. At the end of act two there was meant to be a sunrise that caused the spirits of the jilted brides to flee away, if I had not known this I would not have understood it from what I saw on stage tonight.

The second act, as a whole, lacked the drama and intensity that is required from what is essentially a ghost story - the simple addition of a carpet of smoke would have sufficed.

There were times, especially in the first act, when the Corp de Ballet seemed like their choreography had been created for a much bigger stage, it seemed squashed and slightly out of time.

I arrived at The Grand Theatre tonight expecting to experience a beautiful and moving piece of ballet by an internationally renowned company. I left feeling disappointed and irritated. I hope that the two remaining nights are better than this one.

Reviewer: Alan Harbottle

Reviewed: 8th January 2016