English National Ballet’s Manon

English National Ballet in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

This review of Manon is courtesy of complimentary tickets given to me by The Mayflower Theatre – Features Press Images

Ballet has always been a passion of mine and brings back so many fond memories from my childhood and teens. When Mayflower Theatre invited me to the press night of English National Ballet’s Manon I couldn’t turn down the chance to see it for myself.

From the age of 2 until I was about 14 I took ballet classes every week and dreamed of one day becoming a prima ballerina performing in shows all over the world. I performed on stage hundreds of times and to this day giving up my entire dancing career remains one of my biggest regrets. As much as I enjoyed performing I just knew I could never do it professionally and so instead I opted for enjoying stage performances to keep my love of dance alive. Ballet played a massive part of my life for such a long time so it really is a mystery as to why I haven’t seen more professional productions -in fact I can count on one hand the amount of ballets I have seen. I had read so many incredible reviews about Manon that I was so grateful to be given the chance to finally watch it for myself.

Mayflower Theatre is the last stop on the tour following Manchester and Milton Keynes and marks only the second time the English National Ballet has toured outside of London in the last 30 years. Choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMilan with music by Jules Massenet, arranged and orchestrated by Martin Yates and designed by Mia Stensgaard. Manon is famous for its expressive choreography and dramatic challenge featuring some of the most demanding and fulfilling roles in ballet. A romantic tragedy set in 18th Century Paris, Manon takes you on a journey of love, decadence and passion. Set over three acts we follow the young and naïve convent girl Manon who is torn between a life of privilege and opulence with the wealthy Monsieur GM or innocent love with penniless student Des Grieux in a series of dramatic pas des deux.

Katja Khaniukova and Jeffrey Cirio in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo
Jeffrey Cirio in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

The ballet opens in the courtyard of an Inn where Manon is en route to meet her brother Lescaut. Upon arriving she meets Des Grieux and they fall madly in love with each before running off to his apartment in Paris to be together. Unfortunately for Manon, Monsieur GM has also become attracted to her, so he and Lescaut head off to find them and to convince Manon to become Monsieur GM’s mistress. While Des Grieux is out posting a letter to his father asking for money, they find Manon and entice her with exquisite jewels and decadent furs. She leaves with Monsieur GM leaving behind a distraught Des Grieux and what follows is a dramatic tale of tragedy. Without dialogue ballet can be hard to follow especially if you are unfamiliar with the story so it is often advised to read the synopsis before the show – be warned this does contain a few spoilers!

Erina Takahashi as Manon was enchanting to watch throughout and her chemistry with Jeffery Cirio as Des Grieux was unequivocal. Ken Saruhashi as Lescaut was fearless in his impossibly high leaps delivering each move with precision and a comical edge. Dmitri Gruzdyev was triumphant and strong in his performance as Monsieur GM playing the miscreant perfectly. Each and every score left you breathless and wanting more as every single member of the company demanded your attention. Besides Manon, Katja Khaniukova as Lescaut’s Mistress was one of my favourites from the show as I found her absolutely mesmerising whenever she was on the stage. Each and every performance captivated you, leaving you unsure where to look next for fear you may miss something.

Alina Cojocaru and Fabian Reimair in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

Although Manon is considered a truly irresistible tragedy, there are moments of true comedy throughout which were highly entertaining. The whole production was seamless with each scene adorned with opulent staging and costumes. Although not a well known story, this is truly a spectacular show which should be enjoyed by all. This ignited my love for the art once again and I cannot wait to catch another show.

Catch English National Ballet – Manon at the Mayflower Theatre from 31st October – 4th November 2018.

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