By Clement Crisp
Tribute to Sir Kenneth MacMillan: Reviews 1964-1992
Read the complete tribute to Sir Kenneth MacMillan by Clement Crisp in the PDF document below.
La Création du Monde,13 February 1964
Kenneth MacMillan has owed us a light-hearted ballet for years; last night in Stratford-on-Avon the touring section of the Royal Ballet gave the first performance of his Création du Monde, a funny and curiously touching work. It tells the story of the Création through a children's game - but these are sophisticated, urban, 'with it' teenagers, and the whole tale is seen in terms of 'Pop' Art. The music is Milhaud's cheerful jazz score, which has provided a neat starting point for MacMillan's off-beat, slightly cynical, and vastly theatrical piece.
At curtain-rise a group of children are decking themselves out in the tatters of a dressing-up box, watched by a butcher's boy (Adrian Grater) circling round on his bicycle. The butcher's boy brings on the Great Deity (Ronald Emblen), ring-master to the zany circus that is to enact the drama. A message flashes on a screen at the back of the stage - 'and for my next creation' - and the Deity, in white leotard decorated with Union Jacks has just started his Création with the animals when a large green apple (Adrian Grater again), lettered with greengrocer's jargon, and an amazingly sinuous snake (Elizabeth Anderton) appear. Another slogan comes on the screen, 'New Instant People', and there are Adam and Eve (Doreen Wells and Richard Farley). Their tights are stencilled with all the slang phrases, for man and woman: 'Bird', 'Guy', 'Filly', 'Butch', and so on. Their first lyrical duet has just changed into brighter dance-hall steps, when the sub-title 'I was a teenage snake' announces the Serpent, wildly hatted and ready to start the mischief. Despite all the efforts of the Great Deity with a wooden sword, Adam and Eve are lured to the apple. The result is inevitable and the Deity drives them away and is left disconsolately alone. The children return in street clothes and the Deity is driven off.
This is a ballet full of ideas, of gimmicks taken from 'Pop' Art but made completely balletic, and the tricks and the comic devices never obscure the basic strength of the dancing. At first viewing one is struck by the comic ingenuity of the conception and by the skill with which MacMillan has placed it within the stylistic limits both of a child's game and the ephemera of advertising. The treatment of slogans and the mannerisms of character are symbolic of a witty, slightly disillusioned view, which has been put over to the audience in an effortlessly inventive manner. The choreography is for the most part sharp and allusive though warmly lyrical for Adam and Eve - and the characterisations are unforced, but underlying it is an implied moral judgement seen both in the forceful contrast between Adam and Eve's early innocence and their later awareness, and in the moving finale of the Great Deity's disgust and bewilderment at the sad outcome of the game. The decor byJames Goddard is perfectly in key with the work: as always with MacMillan ballet, it is an integral part of the action. The street costumes are gaudy abstractions of contemporary teenage fashion and the set, in which The Financial Times figures largely, is efficient. The cast are uniformly excellent: Doreen Wells and Richard Farley are touching as Adam and Eve, Elizabeth Anderton makes a riotous creature of the Serpent and Adrian Grater contrives to be a witty Apple.
Click to continue reading the complete Tribute to Sir Kenneth MacMillan: Reviews 1964-1992 by Clement Crisp in the PDF below.
Read the complete reviews 1964-1992
Clement Crisp is dance critic of The Financial Times. Hear him describe what first drew him to MacMillan's work in an interview with Brendan McCarthy, available in the audio gallery.
Listen to the interview ›