La Fille mal gardée, Cojocaru and McRae, Royal Ballet, March 2010

It’s always a pleasure to watch this delightful Ashton ballet to music of Hérold, radically reshaped by John Lanchbery. Now in its fiftieth anniversary year, the original designs by Osbert Lancaster look perennially fresh, and Ashton’s choreography is a delight, with its clever use of satin ribbons and kerchiefs.

William Tuckett as Widow Simone, photo by Tristram Kenton

The performance on March 18 was due to be danced by Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg as Lisa and Colas, but Steven McRae made his debut as Colas, taking over from the injured Kobborg. He did a superb job as Lisa’s lover, cheekily interfering with her nuptial arrangements to the moronic Alain, whose only claim to her attention is his father’s money and vineyards. McRae danced with precision and snap, and being still such a young member of the company he fitted the part perfectly. His partnering of Alina Cojocaru worked wonderfully well, and they seemed to have excellent chemistry together. She was fresh and saucy but without ever going too far, and the relationship with her mother, Widow Simone showed ample sympathy on both sides. William Tuckett was simply excellent as the Widow, never overstepping the mark into slapstick, yet always accidentally witty, particularly in the clog dance. Add to this a wonderful performance by Jose Martin as Alain, and you have a first rate set of principals, well aided by a very fine supporting cast. Everyone seemed to be having fun, as did the orchestra, under the baton of Barry Wordsworth, particularly the piccolo and tuba players.

If you missed this performance, McRae should be dancing the role of Colas again on March 27 and April 26, partnered by Roberta Marquez, and Cojocaru is due to dance Lisa again on the evenings of March 18, 26, and the matinée of April 3, partnered by Johan Kobborg if he’s recovered from his injury. If not, then you will probably get Cojocaru and McRae again, a real treat.

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