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Raven Girl/Connectome review at the Royal Opera House, London – ‘never quite ignites on stage’

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Wayne McGregor has done a lot of tweaking and plucking to his first story ballet since its premiere in 2013. Based on a graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger, it is a Grimm-like tale of a postman and a raven whose union produces a child who is neither wholly flesh nor full feathered fowl.

Not so much mixed race as mixed species, Raven Girl struggles with her place in society before finding her Raven Prince, thanks to her postman father’s ability to rewrite the story and deliver a happy ending. Never less than intriguing, with heavy hints of German Expressionism in the design and primitive surrealism in the graphics, it fails to gel into a satisfactory whole.

McGregor’s characteristically extreme choreography is here softened by an injection of classical lyricism and while Gabriel Yared’s score keeps things buoyant, the steps are often conventional and listless. With a miscellany of agendas that Angela Carter would have spun into gold, the potentially inflammable friction between the bizarre and the banal never quite ignites on stage.

Beautifully danced by the original cast, including Sarah Lamb as the Edwina Featherhands heroine, it remains nest-bound.

Alastair Marriott’s synaptic exploration of identity, Connectome, benefits from Arvo Part’s spiritual music and Es Devlin’s shining forest of glittering Perspex rods that make the cast appear to be dancing inside a nuclear reactor.

As the single girl among a half dozen men, Lauren Cuthbertson brings a lean and stretchy dynamic that is dreamily seductive, though it lacks the sudden detonations of Natalia Osipova’s original performance.

In spite of an elemental Mr Universe contest sequence, this did not quite connect-to-me.

Verdict
Dark, neo-gothic fairytale and clinical exploration of brain patterns fail to connect in an oddball double bill
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