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Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘a classic’

If for nothing else, Woolf Works will be remembered for bringing back to the Covent Garden stage the fabulous Alessandra Ferri at the age of 52. Two years on, Ferri again takes the central roles in two of the ballets as characters inevitably linked to Virginia Woolf herself.

The opening I Now, I Then is taken from Mrs Dalloway with the protagonist looking back on her younger self. Huge wooden frames revolve slowly as Ferri wanders through the character’s own history like a refugee from Resnais’ Last Year in Marienbad. Etched in golden light, Francesca Hayward plays her younger self with remarkable attention to physical detail, adding youthful bounce to Ferri’s elegant mercury.

McGregor’s signature angularity and accelerated movement are more pronounced in the transgendering Orlando with Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae clad identically in gold Elizabethan costumes as two halves of the same creature. Lucy Carter’s laser lighting splits open the stage like a rent in the temporal fabric as McGregor’s piece accelerates into the future, dancers colliding and separating like atoms. Osipova’s extraordinarily flexible technique suggests that even her bones are plastic. As Max Richter’s bubbling echo chamber electronica surges to a climax it’s sonic signature prepares us for the final part The Waves, in which Ferri is tossed and turned in the intimate turbulence of the ensemble beneath a widescreen film of of barely moving waves.

McGregor’s most mature work, it is a precision-tooled example of how best to convey the essence of a literary source without being a slave to interpretation.

Find tickets for Woolf Works on The Stage Tickets [1]

First revival of Wayne McGregor’s Virginia Woolf triptych confirms its status as a classic

Production Information

Wayne McGrgeor's Woolf Works
Royal Opera House, London
January 21, 2017
February 14, 2017
Press night
January 21, 2017
Max Richter
Wayne McGregor
Wayne McGregor Design
Cigue, We Not I, Wayne McGregor
Lucy Carter
Chris Ekers
Moritz Junge
Ravi Deepres
Uzma Hameed (dramaturgy)
Stage manager
Johanna Adams Farley
Production manager
Colin Maxwell
Cast includes
Alessandra Ferri, Federico Bonelli, Gary Avis, Francesca Hayward, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Edward Watson, Akane Takada, Tristan Dyer, Matthew Ball, Paul Kay, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Natalia Osipova, Eric Underwood, Luca Acri, Camille Bracher, Mica Bradbury, David Donnelly, Benjamin Ella, Kevin Emerton, Tierney Heap, Tomas Mock, Meaghan Grace Hinkis
Royal Ballet
Running time
2hrs 45mins