Well, we have been to sample the ‘live feed’ performances beamed from illustrious temples of Metropolitan culture to us provincial yokels. In our case, down the road in the sticky-floored Hastings Odeon.
A couple of weeks ago we saw the National Theatre play, ‘The Last of the Hausmanns’, starring Julie Walters – that was excellent, and the cinema was absolutely packed out. The film experience, where you see lots of close-ups of the actors, worked very well for a stage play. We even had ice-creams delivered in the interval.
A couple of days ago we went to see Swan Lake, from the Royal Opera House. Much to our surprise, the cinema was much emptier – I would have thought it would be very popular. Zenaida Yanowsky danced Odette/Odile. I have not seen Swan Lake on stage since I was at school, and Act II, with the swans by the lakeside, was just as romantic as I remember.
However, normally, one views ballet from a discreet distance. I think the cinema close-ups did reveal the physical effort behind the magic a bit too much – the rivulets of sweat running down bony chests, the puffing and panting, the taut stretched sinews. It was not helped by the fact that Odette was an angular, muscular, 5′ 8″ grown-up woman. Seigfried looked weedy in comparison. The dancers work hard to make it look effortless – all that smiling – but this time you could really see it is a tough job, undertaken by very fit, very strong athletes performing at the limit of their physical ability. However, the Corps de Ballet were lovely – the white swans, floating across the stage in their floaty long white tutus…. Classical ballet is a strange business, so frozen in time.
We will go to more of these cinema live productions – I think they are an excellent idea. Of course, the audiences we have seen so far are exactly the same middle-class crew you would get in the theatre, so the principle of bringing high culture to the masses might not as yet have caught on.