It has a beginning, middle and happy ending. This was one of William Shakespeare’s final plays but, my goodness, what a resurrection Wheeldon has conjured up.
No scene is too long or too short in the story of Hermione, the pregnant Queen of Sicilia (Lauren Cuthbertson) and her supposed infidelity with Matthew Ball’s Polixenes, King of Bohemia. Hermione apparently dies and her allegedly illegitimate baby girl is quietly deposited on a deserted beach.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, this was illustrated by an animated doll whose little legs and arms waved in its basket when left alone. Gruesome or what?
Last Wednesday Cuthbertson’s insanely jealous husband Leontes, King of Sicilia, was danced by Ryoichi Hirano. Enjoying Principal Dancer status in the company for the past two years, this young man is rapidly becoming an irresistible artistic force.
With a blessedly unflashy but versatile technique, his acting abilities now powerfully focus him at the heart of each scene in which he appears. He spends most of the evening suffering with the illusion of his wife’s supposed unfaithfulness, tottering around while supported by courtier Laura Morera. Somehow Hirano plays this hellishly difficult role with an unforced sincerity.
Christopher Wheeldon’s nod to the classics includes not one but two well-populated ensemble pieces; one at Leontes’s aristocratic court, the other with the peasants in the Bohemian countryside.
A tour de force, or just showing off? Well, with Sarah Lamb dancing the lead role of the grown-up baby, called Perdita, it was the high point of the show. Her opening solo was an example to any ambitious female ballet dancer.
Every move was not only physically copybook but her portrayal of a young girl on the brink of adulthood was heartbreaking.
When Vadim Muntagirov swept her off her feet in the villagers’ holiday entertainment I was greatly relieved to see the recording film cameras. I have placed my order for the inevitable DVD.
Tickets: 020 7304 4000/roh.org.uk; £6-£115