Review: Giselle at the Palace Theatre is ‘almost superhuman in poise and precision’

Akram Khan's Giselle at the Palace Theatre offers a mesmerising fusion of timeless ballet and contemporary choreography, bringing Giselle's tragic tale to life like never before.

Giselle is a classical romantic ballet written by Adolphe Adam and first performed in Paris in 1841.

The Story of Giselle

A timeless and tragic tale of betrayal and redemption, this production is brought to the stage at the Palace Theatre by the English National Ballet and world-renowned dancer and choreographer, Akram Khan.

It involves the tragic story of a young peasant girl, Giselle, who falls in love with a philandering duke who has disguised himself as a peasant to win her affection.

With the revelation that the duke, Albrecht, is also betrothed to another, she is driven to madness and soon dies of a broken heart.

Following her death, she joins the sisterhood of the Wilis – the spirits of women who were betrayed by their lovers in life and take their revenge by dancing men to death.

English National Ballet Philharmonic orchestra

Providing the accompanying score to the tragic on-stage events, are the talented men and women of the English National Ballet Philharmonic orchestra, who, under the direction of composer, Gavin Sutherland, bring Adam’s powerfully haunting score to bear with all the gravitas of a Hans Zimmer composition.

The set design and stage upon which the tragedy plays out, is simple but effective, as looming large across the centre of the stage and carrying just as much metaphorical weight as actual heft, is a single prop – a giant rotating wall.

It pulls double duty, signifying the barrier between the peasants and the landowners, and between the worlds of the living and the dead.

It also adds to the ghostly and ethereal qualities of the performance and makes for an impressive backdrop to the events on stage.

Beautiful Costumes

Furthermore, the costuming and colour, expert manipulation of lighting and shadows, and the sumptuously elegant costuming, all coalesce to mesmeric effect, demanding the unfaltering attention of the audience.

The dancing and choreography on display is almost superhuman in its poise and precision.

Throughout its 2-hour runtime, there isn’t a single missed cue or misstep – which is remarkable considering the flurry of activity on stage. Upon witnessing the artistry first-hand, you cannot help but be left with an overwhelming appreciation for the composure and skill on display.

Playing out before your very eyes is the result of a lifetime spent honing and perfecting a craft that is then poured out onto the stage as pure and unfiltered expression. Seeing it on television is one thing, but seeing it live and in person, along with the power of the orchestra is another entirely.

It was truly a privilege to have been witness to this triumphant performance, and deservedly, the opening night concluded with a lengthy standing ovation that reverberated from the stalls to the gods.

As a ballet novice before the performance, I came away with a new-found appreciation for this most elegant and graceful art form and will be taking any opportunity to broaden my
experiences in future.

Akram Khan’s Giselle is at the Palace Theatre from 19th-21st October with tickets from £19.

You can get them here


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