Choreographed and Directed by Akram Khan, with co-production from Manchester International Festival and Sadlers Wells, Giselle is quite simply magnificent. Having seen the classical ballet only once before being asked to choreograph this new interpretation, Akram Khan has created something so special and unique I would have happily stayed in my seat and waited the 24 hours until the next performance just for the chance to see this magical piece again.
Powerful, emotive and hauntingly beautiful. Khan has taken Giselle, originally choreographed in 1842 by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli and brought it bang up to date, expanding it’s themes of love, betrayal, reality, the afterlife, money, power and the injustice that comes with not having either, so apt for the times we live in. Khan’s Outcasts are a community of peasant migrant workers disposed of by their employers and banished behind a thick and impenetrable wall, their only use now seemingly is to entertain the factory Landlords ,should their elitist former employers so desire.
Despite this dark and desolate life refugee Giselle (Alina Cojocaru) still finds hope and a love to cling to in the form of Albrecht (Issac Hernandez), a wealthy suitor who has crossed the line after becoming transfixed by Giselle’s beauty. Their love affair sadly has not gone unnoticed by Hilarion (Cesar Corrales) a peasant ‘fixer’ who shifts his allegiance from his community to the wealthy Landlords for his own gain, Hilarion will set about to ensure that Giselle and Albrecht do not get their happy ending.
Vincenzo Lamagna’s reworking of Adolphe Adam’s score injects drama and grit with its powerful industrial presence, paired beautifully with Mark Henderson’s dynamic lighting design and Academy Award winning Tim Yip’s epic visual design and incredible costumes this production is destined to become a modern classic, a piece you would happily return to time and time again and discover something new on each visit. It is quite simply breath-taking; the skill on show left me speechless.
In Act II we see Giselle arrive in the afterlife, a ghost-factory inhabited by the Wills, (haunted spirits of the ill-treated factory girls) their en pointe work is dazzling, they appear to hover ghost like en masse, powerful and dark they are completely hypnotic with their tumbling unkempt waist length hair and tattered, rag-like dresses. Khan isn’t afraid to use long dramatic silences where you find yourself holding your breath afraid to break the silence yet desperate for the next mesmerising move from the stunning Company.
Bold and inspiring, Giselle more than deserved the standing ovation it received. Special mention must go to Principles, Alina Cojocaru, Issac Hernandez, Cesar Corrales and Begona Cao, all gave exquisite and unforgettable performances. My advice would be to beg, steal or borrow to get a ticket to this truly ground-breaking and achingly brilliant production.
Giselle, The Palace Theatre, 27th Sept-1st October 2017