We knew little about this ballet before heading to opening night at the Hippodrome but a look at the press images of dancing chickens indicated this show would generate a chuckle or two.
Performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, La Fille mal gardée is the brainchild of British dancer and choreographer Frederick Ashton who wrote it in 1960.
An ode to the English countryside in the summer (very appropriate given the current temperatures we’re basking in), it’s the tale of Lise, who falls for the attractive farmhand, Colas.
But her affections are much to the annoyance of her mother, Simone, who wants to marry Lise off to Alain, the clumsy buffoon of a son to a wealthy farmer.
Simone is played brilliantly by Rory Mackay, who prances around like a classic pantomine dame, not the only similarity to that most British of theatre formats.
The set is bright and colourful, much like the worlds of Aladdin, Cinderella and Peter Pan I remember from childhood visits to the theatre at Christmas, and there are even the chants of ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh’ from the audience as a real-life miniature pony walks onto the stage. There’s no ‘he’s behind you’ though!
This show is a simple one and the story is easy to follow which makes it perfect as an introduction to ballet for children.
It’s not heavy on the classical ballet either but there are some strong plies, relevees and sautes.
Tyrone Singleton shines as Colas and his solo dance is the best of the night.
Celine Gittens is good as Lise but she comes into her own in the third act in an amusing interplay as she attempts to flee the house and escape being set up with her mother’s favoured son-in-law.
James Barton is brilliant as the hapless Alain and provides most of the funniest moments in the show. Not giving too much away but his Mary Poppins-inspired performance at the end is a joy to behold.
There’s no deep thinking required for this ballet but you’ll leave with a big smile on your face.
And as temperatures hit 30 degrees outside, La Fille mal gardée is a great way to grab a bit of sunshine with the air conditioning on!