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Manhattnik

Edward II

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Well, I survived the Royal Birmingham Ballet's Edward II, although it was touch-and-go for awhile. I do think this is a good candidate for The Worst Ballet Ever. While some really terrible choreographers like Bejart or Eifman have a certain warped genius, Bintley hardly rose to such levels, except for a jaw-dropping pas de trois for Edward, Queen Isabella and the bloody sack containing the severed head of his lover, Galveston. Now that was special.

As for the rest, well, I hope never again to see as many studded codpieces in one evening. I think I'll go cleanse my mind with some nice, wholesome pornography.

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Did Wolfgang Stollwitzer dance Edward? I guess the young Robert Parker will dance later.

[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited September 23, 2000).]

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I take it back. I told Cargill at intermission this ballet (of which I had seen the first act) was the worst thing I had ever seen, but I was wrong. The second act was the worst thing I have ever seen. This ballet has all the vulgarity and misogyny of MacMillan's Manon, taken to a truly staggering extreme. Mind you, there are a lot of other things I don't like much, but this was truly debased. More about the British than I really wanted to know. I leave it to someone less exhausted to figure out how to describe this ballet on line without being offensive.

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Kevin, yes he did.

And the second act was far, far worse than the first. The first had some unintentional humor. The second was like the Sahara.

I swear I could feel the continents drifting farther apart during Edward's endless duet with his executioner. The program coyly referred to Edward's having been executed by a method that would leave no outward physical mark, and, ignorant as I am of English history, I thought, "I get it, he's going to be bored to death." Well, I almost was.

After seeing the graphic representation of Edward's dispatch, I can safely say that there are indeed things worse than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

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I'm so glad you all enjoyed yourselves so thoroughly! Manhattnik, think of what Another Choreographer could do with a ballet where a red hot poker figures pointedly--the 21st century jester role. smile.gif

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I've never seen that ballet, but it reminds me of "Les rois maudits", a series of historical novels by Maurice Druon about the 100-years war between France and England. (Not great literature, and probably not totally accurate historically, but good for long summers in a remote village). One thing that had striked me in that book was all the horrible executions and murders (depicted with quite a lot of details): the executions of the lovers of the daughters-in-law of Philippe IV (how do you say "ecartele"), those of the Temple knights (burned), quite a lot of people who had their head cut off with an axe, the death of Roger Mortimer... and also that horrible death of Edward II. Enough to make people have nightmares...

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Manhattnik wrote:

*************

I do think this is a good candidate for The Worst Ballet Ever.

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Didn't I predict this reaction from you & other 'Manhattanites' months ago? (he-he) Nonetheless, from all I've read beforehand about this ballet, I think that I may agree with all of you this time.

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. . . some really terrible choreographers like Bejart or Eifman. . .

Speak for yourself! smile.gif

- Jeannie (not exactly rushing to NY to see this one)

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What can I add, except I had a debate during the intermission with someone about whether this was worse than The Snow Maiden, and we both reluctantly agreed that if forced, we would choose EdwardII. That was before the second act, however, which was truly, monumentally, staggeringly boring. It has all the vulgarity but none of the conviction of Eifman, and was truly inept. I think my very favorite part was, in order to show a voyage to France, he had little Edward III (dressed like a Victorian boy--the Nutcracker Prince after the transformation) swoop around the stage behind mylar curtains with a toy clipper ship (not very medieval), while the stage behind him dropped flats studded with the flur de lys. Well duh. (Presumably to let us know that the fleur de lys was not a symbol for Medieval France, the French courtiers were dressed in lolipop colored business suits, in order to make the message more universal.) But what was the message?

There is a very funny book of potted English history called 1066 And All That, a brief summary of what the average student might remember after leaving school, which divided things into Good Things and Bad Things, and I have to say that Edward II is a Very Bad Thing.

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And "ecartele" means "quartered", as in "drawn and quartered". Not a fun way to go.

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One cannot help but wonder why BRB , a very fine company, brought this mess to New York.....

And Slaughter on Tenth Avenue...and Nut Sweeties...while I had looked forward to the costumes for the latter, why would a British company mess with Duke Ellington in New York....

Not saying that these won't be done well, but why bring this repertory? At least all the women got to go shopping during the first week of the run....doesn't seem as if there was much for them to do on stage....

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Good question, Juliet. I had also wondered why BRB brought Edward II to Hong Kong 6 months ago instead of an Ashton or even MacMillan work in its repertory. BRB's press officer told me that David Bintley wants the company to be seen on tour in a programme which is representative of its present direction, instead of its past.

[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited September 23, 2000).]

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Cargill cites the marvelous1066 and All That (which I admit was read aloud to me when I was a child, right along with Winnie the Pooh), which is by Osbert Lancaster. It got me thinking about this strange Brit dichotomy--you get Mrs. Tiggle Wiggle, and Dancing Veggies on the one hand, and Men In Masks and Leather and Let's Not Forget the Hot Poker on the other. Is this the same coin, flipped? I hope not, but I wonder.

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1066 and All That is not by Osbert Lancaster, it's by WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman.

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Well then I am wrong. The Osbert Lancaster is about the crusades and such. Sorry. I was thinking about this last night in the wee hours, and thank you for the correction. The Lancaster is still terrif. Must check proper title. Sorry again, all. I would blame Edward II--in fact I will. As far as I am concerned, the latch on my washing machine is broken becasue of Edward II....

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Here's Clive Barnes in the Post on the BRB -- loves the company, not the ballet. He also mentions an interesting detail about Edward's pas de deux with his executioner that I had not heard before. Had no idea the late king was into water sports.....

http://www.nypostonline.com/entertainment/11610.htm

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Ah, so you missed that magic moment...my husband, not a regular ballet-goer, poked me in the ribs and asked "- and what did he just do?" Just think, I can remember when the RB carefully did not schedule "The Invitation" for matinees.

I think if the second act had gone on one minute more I would have lost my lunch on the person sitting in front of me. I found the whole thing tasteless, badly conceived, mostly badly choreographed (although it did have its moments) badly costumed (except for those gorgeous dresses for Isabella - I want one of those) and far, far, far ... too long. I am so glad I no longer live in England so I know that nary a penny of my tax money has gone to help pay for what gets my vote for the worst ballet - and certainly the most nauseating ballet - ever.

The auditorium was quite empty when I saw it. They should have promoted it heavily in gay interest publications, then they might have had a much bigger audience. Bintley seems determined to portray Edward as a poor, oppressed, misunderstood gay king who was persecuted for his sexual preferences and was martyred - and thus portrayed as Christlike! In actual fact, he got into trouble because he was a bad king and didn't know how to manage the barons. He reigned for over 20 years, by the way. Also, the barons tried to get him to die by more natural means - like getting pneumonia, but Edward had a strong physical constitution and hung on. [edit; sorry, but this was a bit too graphic for a board read by children] How's that for gruesome? The dungeon at Berkeley Castle is still there...

The other thing (well one of the other things) that bothered me, is that I found much of the choreography derivative. Did anyone else recognize bits from Spartacus, amongst other Soviet-era works?

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited September 26, 2000).]

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Oh yes, I recognized Spartacus and the Green Table, and Job (the Death figure was made up a lot like pictures I have seen of Dolin), and Petrushka and Checkmate, and several Macmillan ballets (Juliet and her nurse and the nasty gaoler from Manon), and quite a few others.

During the intermission, someone did say "Well it's very popular in Birmingham", which reminded me of the bit of dialogue from Sullivan's Travels about a movie the hero had made.

"What do they know in Pittsburg?"

"They know what they like in Pittsburg."

"If they knew what they liked, they wouldn't live in Pittsburg."

And what makes the whole thing even more galling is that BRB has done such interesting things. Why not bring The Prospect Before Us , or some of their Ashton, instead of some black leather rehash of stuff we have all seen so much of before.

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And there you have it: These days one goes to the ballet and guys come out in black leather and boots, one thinks,"Oh, this again

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I was a great fan of the BRB and was a Friend of the BRB for many years. However when Bintley took over from Peter Wright as artistic director the repertoire has gone steadily downhill. I now no longer go to watch the BRB and from the posting on this topic you will understand why!

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Thank God, I have a Masters' Degree in European History (and also taught social stuides for twenty years), and knowing full well how Edward II died, I didn't want to see it on stage. It's hard to believe that anyone knowing the history of Edward II would actually choose to create a ballet about it. The jazz program, though weak in spots, sounds a million percent better than "Edward II".

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Originally posted by felursus:

The other thing (well one of the other things) that bothered me, is that I found much of the choreography derivative. Did anyone else recognize bits from Spartacus, amongst other Soviet-era works?

From what I remember of the ballet when I saw it 7 months ago, the various pas de deux seemed to have been derived from MacMillan's style, but I couldn't detect any Soviet influence at all. To be fair, there are some good bits in this work, which however don't quite cohere. But overall there is a gripping intensity in Bintley's storytelling.

And the cast made a difference too. I was also impressed by Robert Parker's Edward, but I don't know if he danced the title role in New York.

[This message has been edited by Kevin Ng (edited October 08, 2000).]

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I thought the in-character curtain call by Death was entertaining. He stalked out from behind the curtain, glared expressionlessly at the audience then slowly pointed to someone up in the balcony, as if to say, "You're next, buddy!"

It left me wondering where where he'd been an hour earlier when I really could've used him.

[This message has been edited by Manhattnik (edited October 08, 2000).]

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I don't have a Master's degree in European History, but I was married in the parish of Berkeley (yes, THAT one). The Castle and its association with the death of Edward II is the top item of interest in the area. No one, however, has had the poor taste to open "Ye Hotte Poker Inne" - at least not yet. It's a subject best left in the history books. Even Shakespeare knew better. Edward II's greatest moment in history was when, as an infant, he was presented to the Welsh as their "Prince who speaks no English".

I agree completely with Manhattnik on the subject of "Death". I had an almost irresistible urge to take a flying leap onto the stage, (quite a feat from above), grab that scythe and use it on Bintley. I promise you, fellow listers, that I seldom feel this violently - or violated.

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Oh Felursus, how I love that "Ye Hotte Poker Inne" idea! Why no-one so far has had the 'poor taste' to open one I can't imagine..

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