Starstruck review – an opulent and fizzy Gene Kelly revival

Glasgow Theatre Royal
Scottish Ballet make a post-pandemic return with a rousing version of Kelly’s ballet about Greek gods in the south of France

Sixty years ago, American dancer and choreographer Gene Kelly created Pas de Dieux for the Paris Opera Ballet (the first American to do so). Eighteen months ago, Scottish Ballet leapt off stage while touring in America to race home and lock themselves indoors. They’ve returned with Starstruck, a glitzy revival of Kelly’s ballet that hopes to mark that comeback with a bang – and in this, they succeed.

In Pas de Dieux, the gods Zeus and Aphrodite – accompanied by the mischievous Eros – descend from Mount Olympus to the balmy south of France. A few meddling arrows, fistfights and broken hearts later, all ends well with mortal and godly lovers correctly reunited. Artistic director Christopher Hampson worked with Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, to reconstruct the ballet by deciphering Kelly’s scribbled annotations on George Gershwin’s score and sifting through archive photographs and rehearsal footage.

Hampson adds a well-situated prologue that frames Kelly’s ballet from within the rehearsal room of shiny, legging-clad men and star-struck ballerinas. The ritual of ballet class after so long away feels apt rather than conceited, and the subsequent blur between on- and off-stage relationships throughout the show creates a nice dramatic texture.

Aisling Brangan and Sophie Martin in Starstruck
Aisling Brangan and Sophie Martin in Starstruck. Photograph: Andy Ross

The company apply themselves to the jazzy numbers with rigour, if not complete abandon: soloist Bruno Micchiardi as the Pianist/Eros is brilliantly emphatic as he springs across the stage. Evan Loudon as the Choreographer/Zeus traverses his kingdoms with impeccably high jumps and long extensions, though he is always drawn to Sophie Martin’s commanding Star Ballerina/Aphrodite.

Lez Brotherston’s design (inspired by André François’ original ideas) does a lot of heavy lifting in navigating the audience through new scenarios. The rehearsal room is stripped back to wheeled mirrors and studio lights, the beach indicated through a lifeguard’s towering platform, yet a camp opulence still infectiously infuses the production.

The ballet itself runs out of steam in the final act: while the ensemble numbers continue to enthral, it’s uncertain whether they’ll end in five or 50 minutes. But it’s an enjoyable enough look into the past, with plenty of fizz to propel you back into the theatre.

  • At Eden Court, Inverness, from 30 September-2 October. Then touring.

Contributor

Róisín O'Brien

The GuardianTramp

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