Life & Culture

Royal Ballet review: Untitled 2023, Corybantic Games and Anastasia Act III

It's an intriguing triple bill


Royal Ballet triple bill
Untitled 2023, Corybantic Games and Anastasia Act III | ★★★★✩

The Royal Ballet’s summer season at the Royal Opera House ends with an intriguing triple bill which includes the premiere of Untitled, 2023 by Wayne McGregor.

Any new work by McGregor is much anticipated and this piece is interesting – even if the audience is left wondering what it is all about.

Set against a stark white backdrop with a slash of green, the dancers – decked out in white and green unitards – perform variations to Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music, which has a definite sci-fi vibe to it.A feeling of mystery pervades the ballet.

We could be watching aliens from another world or sea-creatures. The 19 dancers are – literally – stretched to the limit.

Time and again we see hyper-extended legs and arms which are at first sinuous, then angular.

The title (or lack of it), draws its inspiration from the work of set designer Carmen Herrera (who died last year aged 106).

Many of her pieces are simply labelled ‘Untitled’ with the date of their creation.The second work of the night is Christopher Wheeldon’s Corybantic Games, first performed back in 2018.

Set to Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade (you can occasionally hear in it the nascent West Side Story, written not long after), it has a striking set by Jean-Marc Puissant and beautiful lighting by Peter Mumford.

The most successful elements of this piece are in the slower passages: the dancers assume a sculptural beauty, like a Greek frieze.

They perform with commitment: at the performance I saw, Gina Storm-Jensen was coolly elegant in the second movement and Melissa Hamilton shone in all she did.

Least successful is the costume design, even though there have been tweaks made for this run.

I am a fan of Erdem’s dresses, but the 1950s-style big white satin knickers and bras here just do not work.

They are not flattering and have the unfortunate effect of making some of the women look chunky – something Royal Ballet dancers are most certainly not.

The evening ends with Anastasia Act III, by Kenneth MacMillan. This was created as a separate ballet before two additional acts were added later.

It is a gloomy look into the fractured mind of Anna Anderson, the woman who believes she is the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Film footage of the Russian royal family is projected onto a backdrop, while the woman relives episodes of what she thinks is her past life – all within the confines of a mental hospital. Natalia Osipova pulls out all the stops in a tour de force performance.

The role is being shared this run with Laura Morera, who retires at the end of the season after nearly 30 years with the company.

She will be missed.

Untitled, 2023, Corybantic Games and Anastasia Act III are at the Royal Opera House until 17 June.

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