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Elizabeth review at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio, London – ‘beautiful’

Carlos Acosta and Zenaida Yanowsky in Elizabeth at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House. Photo: Tristram Kenton Carlos Acosta and Zenaida Yanowsky in Elizabeth at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Having taken leave of Covent Garden’s main stage with his own version of Carmen, Carlos Acosta bids adieu to the Linbury Studio in this chamber piece for two dancers. Part of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations, Will Tuckett’s intimate portrait of Elizabeth I’s unhappy love life is a richly woven tapestry of dance, music and text.

Accompanied by a solo cellist, an opera singer and three actors, Acosta and Zenaida Yanowsky deliver a series of duets, solos and pas de deux representing various stages in Elizabeth’s life, parlayed around the four men who attempted to woo her. Yanowsky is perfectly cast as Elizabeth, her height and innate regality allowing her a natural authority on stage, and her long-limbed technique brings Tuckett’s sensitive choreography to vivid life.

Acosta has enormous fun switching doublets and facial hair for each of her admirers, while animating the steps with everything from grand passion to knockabout comedy as an Errol Flynn-like Robert Dudley, the puppyish Duc d’Anjou and a terrific Walter Raleigh.

The three actors recite Elizabethan poems, correspondence – often by Elizabeth’s own pen – and extracts from plays, while the cello and a singer add their voices to the proceedings with Martin Yates’ music riffing around the work of composers such as John Dowland and Thomas Tallis without actually imitating it.

Simply and effectively designed with a Gustav Klimt-like red and gold backcloth and modern globe lights, Tuckett’s ballet is a potent distillation of the monarch’s life, bookended by her death in which Yanowsky’s Elizabeth seems to reflect agonisingly on her romantic failures as much as the successes of her reign.

A beautifully realised work in every respect and a fitting farewell for Acosta.

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Carlos Acosta bows out at the Royal Opera House in Elizabethan style