DANCING WITH THE DEVIL by Aletta Lawson
What a treat. A play with dance. I looked forward with relish to Theatre Lab Company’s production of Dancing with the Devil at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadlers’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, a play about the great, Russian ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev by Aletta Lawson. It did not disappoint.
Benny Maslov plays Rudolf Nureyev, the brilliant, tortured, greatest ballerina of his time. Set in Nureyev’s Paris apartment in the early 90’s, Nureyev is dying of Aids coming to terms with his physical decline and in reflective mood. He calls on the spirit of Margot Fonteyne, his acclaimed dance partner who died years earlier to try to make sense of his life.
Lawson takes Nureyev on a journey through time with the ghost of Margot trying to help him put his life into persepective. We watch our hero agonize as he recalls his childhood and the cruelty of his Father, his painful decision to leave his beloved homeland to defect to the West to pursue his love of dance, his turbulent relationships and his inexorable physical demise. Ultimately what links them all is not the ghost of Margot, but his passion and need to dance. It made him who he was, single minded, unrelenting, driven, sometimes cruel but always passionate
The story of the tortured artist, examines the real Nureyev, good and bad and is sensitively played by Maslov who endeavours to bring the complex character back to life. Through a grueling hour and a half performance, Maslov is on stage throughout, he manages to convey Nureyev’s love of his craft and how it defined him.
Maslov is supported by an able cast, including Jo Price as Margot Fonteyne, laugh out loud performances by Peter Rae and a touching evocation of Nureyev’s relationship with fellow dancer, Eric Bruhn by Konstantinos Kavakiotis. The play requires a number of characters to portray Nureyev’s life providing some of the cast with more than one role, which for some is a stretch.
The stand out performance is that of Maslov, which is perhaps not surprising given he has the opportunity to supplement his performance through dance, which is when he truly excels. He conveys the power and arrogance of the world’s greatest ballerina and the choreography, by Maslov himself, is highly reminiscent of Nureyev and helps the audience get lost in the performance.
Theatre Lab Company is an award winning Company known for excellent visual storytelling and Dancing with the Devil is no exception; simple, but effective, Maslov’s performance is enhanced as a result. Thoughtful and creative scene changes and staging assist with the merging of Nureyev’s conscious and unconscious providing an ethereal, dream like quality.
So who is the Devil? Obviously Nureyev, since he is delivered to us warts and all. But also perhaps the demons of Nureyev’s past; his Father, the KGB, failed relationships, perhaps even dance itself which took him into her grasp and would not let go?
The highlights are not surprisingly the dance scenes and I would have liked more dance to have been weaved into the story, but what is on offer is captivating. Check it out at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells until Wednesday 29th June.
Reviewer : Suzanne Davies
DANCING WITH THE DEVIL | Booking Information
Lilian Baylis Studio
Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TN
Sunday 26 June – Wednesday 29 June at 7.45pm
Wednesday 29 June at 2.30pm
Tickets: £20 (£16 concessions)
Box office: 020 7863 8000
online: Click here