On the penultimate stop of their long 2018 tour, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a well-anticipated breath of fresh air at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. Here, a full house awaits the imaginative performance from the all-male troupe. Now in their 43rd year, ‘The Trocks’ bring legend in their wake, a unique mix of comedic routine, and feminine grace mixed with masculine power.
Despite high expectations, this show blows any preconceptions out of the auditorium, so impressive is the blend of high-camp characters with emotional, elegant storytelling. Whilst still a mixed audience, there is no question that many spectators are ballet enthusiasts, demonstrating the respect that this troupe command in this niche they’ve carved for themselves.
It is difficult to create an effective parody of something without first having mastered it, and these dancers have certainly managed that. In amongst the farcical scenes, there is true talent and the years of training shine through. This format couldn’t work without the attention to detail that has clearly been paid. True comedy is an art form, and more often than not this show hits the sweet spot.
The troupe work seamlessly together throughout the group pieces from ‘Les Sylphides’ and ‘La Trovatiara Pas de Cinq’ with delicacy and elegance on pointe which seem to defy the laws of nature. The comic elements are sprinkled in amongst the gorgeous choreography. One favourite is the catatonic danseur Nicholas Khachafallenjar (true name Haojun Xie) whose small stature is marked next to the often 6ft tall ballerinas whom he is expected to lift effortlessly – much cajoling and hilarity ensue.
The use of recorded tracks and not a live orchestra somewhat limits the impact music can have on the keynotes of the piece, and unfortunately, they’re not as effective as they had the potential to be. Whilst respecting the constraints of budget, The Trock’s performance would be elevated by strengthening the relationship between the dance and the music.
That being said, my companion sagely reminded me one should be careful what you wish for, as the second act opens on a startling, albeit hilarious, exaggerated modern dance piece ‘Patterns in Space’ accompanied by percussionists on stage. Whilst their additions are used almost solely for comedic effect, to varying degrees of hilarity, it remains a somewhat confusing departure from the rest of the show. This leads into the only real criticism of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, that of prioritising comic gags over performance, which can at times be frustrating as the talent is more than sufficient for it to be entertaining alongside the gorgeous choreography. The slapstick comedy therefore sometimes feels unnecessary and out of place.
The testament to the show’s genius is the standout performance, ‘The Dying Swan’ played by the enchanting Olga Supphozova (Robert Carter). Carter’s stunning performance is characterised with light-footed grace, as her progress across the stage slowly drowns it in feathers. The team of costume designers have outdone themselves with the sumptuous reels of tulle and the thousands of feathers which pour forth from it. It is an outstanding costume – character building and facilitating artistic movement.
The Trocks fully live up to their lofty reputation in this show, providing a spectacle of comedic and dance talent. This is without a doubt one of the most entertaining evenings of ballet available in Scotland today.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Image: J.P. Dobrin via Ballets Trockadero