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A triumphant return for the Royal Ballet's sauciest signature work
‘Manon’ returns for 2019 with a new company. This review is from 2014
Leave the children at home for this salacious ballet. For the past 40 years, Kenneth’s MacMillan’s three-act masterpiece, adapted from Abbé Prévost’s book ‘L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut’ has entranced audiences and divided critics.
The late choreographer’s ‘Manon’ has bite. A story of questionable morals – or lack thereof – has all the traits for a rich, dense production full of star-struck lovers, manipulative siblings, hedonistic antics, debauched seduction, shame and murder.
Sarah Lamb’s interpretation of Manon is perfection. Naively adoring of her pimp brother, Manon is led by him into an immoral world of courtesans and corruption. Lamb’s ability to express desire in all its guises from lovestruck fool to insatiable seductress will have you in tears by the climax of this exhilarating yet haunting tragedy.
The duets are beyond sublime, with statuesque lines and holds that will make you gasp for breath. From rapturous affection to anguish and sorrow, ‘Manon’ keeps the audience as much as the dancers on their toes.
Matching the intense drama of Manon’s demise is Nicholas Georgiadis’s brilliant eighteenth-century Paris backdrop, as squalid as it is decedent. The demi-monde hang out in opulent interiors, while the riff raff squelch around in grit and grime.
Ultimately everything comes at a price: a puppet to rich men’s want, Manon becomes a sad sullied shadow of her former self.