The Prickle (@ThePrickle) November 21, 2016
Kenneth MacMillan’s 1970 creation for The Royal Ballet was originally conceived in 1967 as a low-budget, expressionistic, one-act work. A woman in grey gets up from her hospital bed and watches video footage of the grand Duchess of Anastasia, and screams; soldiers invade the limitless, pale green room, the spiritualist Rasputin reanimates a fallen child. She is Anna Anderson, the woman who believes that she is Anastasia.
In 1970, that original work became the finale to a three act ballet. The first two acts present opulent, classical memories from Anastasia‘s childhood (or false memories, if you prefer). Pretty, low-stakes choreography (including an comic trio of male divers) loosely matches with Tchaikovsky’s first symphony, which often sounded cold and characterless under conductor Simon Hewett.
But in the third act, distorted electronics gives way to Martinu’s thrilling sixth symphony, as the woman in grey replays moments from the first two acts, disordered and sometimes transferred onto the wrong people. Laura Morera’s pulsating and anxious lead is a hit with the audience.
The overall effect is neither a crowdpleasing, Nutcracker-esque series of impressive delights, nor an expressive exploration of implanted memories. Anna Anderson died in 1984, and a posthumous 1994 DNA test proved she was from a Polish peasant family, completely unrelated to Anastasia. The story no longer grips as it did in 1967, and the same may be said for this ballet too.