The Rite of Spring
The Sunday Times, Sunday 15 November 2009
At the Coliseum, unusual programming from English National Opera brought Bartok’s opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, as conceived by the Irish choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan and his Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre. In the designer Rae Smith’s bleak setting, somewhere in an Irish bogland, snow falls on a drab community (mostly male) dominated by a heavy-smoking hag. There is also an ineffectual old Sage who is eventually done in. To the chugging rhythms of Part I, the men shuffle, stamp, jig, bob this way and that in unison, then converge on a male victim, who is left spread-eagled — presumably dead. Three women pause to drink tea before being gang-raped. The men down trousers and hump the ground.
In Part II, a lot of music is wasted while the men loll and smoke; then they put on dog heads and, as a pack of hounds (a chillingly effective image), dispatch two of the women. So to the sacrificial dance, where Keegan-Dolan plays his trick hand, except that it turns out weak. The men strip naked to put on gaily floral frocks (ah, spring), then cavort and revolve around the remaining woman, the Chosen One (Daphne Strothmann), who is stamping in bra and pants. The keep-fit class reaches its climax with the terminal collapse of all the men, and the woman still standing.
Keegan-Dolan has shown us much more interesting work before. Here, there are swamping gimmicks, with insufficient dance interest or power to match Stravinsky’s rhythmic savagery.
David Dougill, The Sunday Times