Bristol Hippodrome

Le Corsaire November 2013

Based on the 1809 poem by Lord Bryon the English National Ballet production of Le Corsaire opened at the Bristol Hippodrome this week to thunderous applause and plaudits.

A little more macho pantomime than Gothic fairytale, that is when compared with Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty masterpiece which wowed Bristol audience earlier this year, it does have a colourful charm and originality.

Le Corsaire - The Pirate - is an easy-to-follow love story for all the family starring a swashbuckling Conrad and a beautiful harem girl called Medora.

It tells of drama on the high seas and of 'captive maidens, a rich sultan, kidnap and rescue, disguise and conspiracy, love and betrayal, culminating in a shipwreck which is one of the most breathtaking spectacles in ballet'.

English National Ballet is the first UK Company to perform the complete work which showcases some of the most bravura male dancing in the ballet repertoire.

This is also a pretty ballet with many, many star performers including the talented ballerinas who twirl and point toes wearing Ali Baba-style tutus with exposed midriffs on superbly lit sets amid towering scenery.

And there is lots of background movement in the busy scenes between the corps de ballet which makes the market, palace and pirates cave really engaging places for those looking in on the action.

The comedic element is also not lost on the audience and the portly, opium-smoking Sultan is played superbly to many a belly chuckle while in another moment the floral hoops and garlands carried head high is synchronised by a more traditional chorus line of ballerinas.

Hollywood film designer Bob Ringwood, of Batman, Alien 3, Star Trek Nemesis, Ai and Troy fame, created the new sets and costumes for this ripping period piece which is an adventure story which delivers its Eastern promise of unmissable entertainment and great dancing.

It is a little debatable how 'English' the ballet company is with many of its gifted principal dancers coming from Eastern Europe especially Romania.

  • Spoiler alert 1: George Gordon Noel, the sixth Baron Byron, travelled extensively on the continent and it is with some irony the finale seems like 'life imitating art' as his friend and fellow Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drown more than a decade after this poet was written.

  • Spoiler alert 2: Sadly they don't live 'happily ever after' so take your tissues.Le Corsaire plays until Saturday, November 30.

Carol Deacon