It’s always a pleasure to welcome back the Trocks to our shores, and indeed the intervening months between booking the tickets and seeing the show are actively spent in happy anticipation. If you don’t already know, every member of this all-male company of amazing dancers takes on a male and female persona appropriate to the Grand Tradition of Classical Ballet. Get to the theatre early so you have some time to read their biographies in the programme because they are wickedly funny. You can never be quite sure who or what you will see until you hear the pre-show announcement explaining the changes to the programme; along with the reassurance that all the ballerinas are in a very good mood for that performance. Will some of one’s old favourite performers still be strutting their stuff? Will there be some new shining stars in the company? Will they do all their old routines? The answers to those questions – certainly as far as the Saturday matinee in Birmingham were concerned – are yes, yes and no.
We’ve seen the Trocks now probably at least ten times, last time a couple of years ago, and on nearly every one of those occasions the first dance has been Act Two of Swan Lake, which is both one of the funniest and most superbly performed pieces you’re ever likely to see on a stage. This time, however, there was no Swan Lake! It is being performed at a couple of the gigs on their tour, but at Birmingham instead our opening act was Les Sylphides.
Les Sylphides combines the beauty of classical ballet with plenty of opportunities for slapstick. It showcases the dancers’ extraordinary talents but remains extremely funny. From the moment Olga Supphozova (one of my old favourites) strides on stage and demands that she takes over from Lariska Dumbchenko (another of my old favourites), who stomps off in a huff, you know they haven’t lost their ability to mock the art form in a most loving way. Miss Supphozova (the excellent Robert Carter) is on top form as she beefs her way through the routine, causing and side-stepping pratfalls and beguilingly drawing the audience along with her with that coquettish smile. She was matched with superb dancing by Marina Plezegetovstageskaya, which is the first time we’ve seen her, and together they were masterfully accompanied by M. Jacques d’Aniels, in a new reincarnation embodied by Lawrence Neuhauser. His vague, mindless expression is a complete hoot. The other dancers were all superb and the physical comedy of the dance was of the highest order – especially hilarious was the delightfully vacuous Miss Ludmila Beaulemova, a new Trock played by Scott Austin.
Our pas de deux for the matinee was danced by Yakatarina Verbosovich and Kravlji Snepek. Miss Verbosovich (the extraordinary Chase Johnsey) was on stunning form, with a performance of grace and precision that Darcey Bussell would have found hard to match. Mr Snepek (new Trock Philip Martin-Neilson, the youngest member of the company) grew into his performance and I am sure he will be a splendid stalwart of the group in the years to come.
This was followed by La Vivandière, pas de six. I was a little disappointed because I also saw that Le Grand Pas De Quatre is being played at some theatres and that is a real favourite – but this was the first time we had seen La Vivandière. There was no need to be disappointed, as it’s beautifully danced and very funny. The hairy-chested Miss Dumbchenko (the brilliant Raffaele Morra) was back on stage and giving it her all. It was also a great opportunity to see some deft and seemingly effortless (I’m sure it isn’t) solo work by Andrei Leftov (the superb Boysie Dakobe).
A major highlight of any Trocks performance is the Dying Swan solo – a five minute comic masterpiece of sheer magic. Joy of joys, it was to be a rare appearance by Miss Ida Nevasayneva, my favourite Trock, the marvellous creation of Paul Ghiselin. From the visual gags of the misplaced spotlight and the loose feathers, to Miss Nevasayneva’s wobbly, bandy legs and pained expressions, it’s five minutes where you can barely see the stage for tears of laughter. To witness Comrade Ida executing the terminal fowl one more time (something I had feared I would never see again) was a genuine thrill.
The final piece was Walpurgis Night, again a new piece for us – Go For Barocco and Raymonda’s Wedding seem to be temporarily retired. Superbly danced and elegantly staged, if I’m honest for me it didn’t have quite enough humour content to make the whole afternoon a balanced programme. It was still very enjoyable though, and the audience loved it. As usual we were treated to a surprise comedy curtain call act, which was very cleverly done and extremely different – but Mrs Chrisparkle and I both agreed we prefer their Lord of the Dance curtain routine.
But this is to take nothing away from the excellence of the performance. The Birmingham Hippodrome is a very big theatre and it was a delight to see it so packed with happy balletomanes and comedy appreciators alike! The Trocks are touring the UK until the end of February and you’ll regret it if you don’t catch them.