Left – Ruslan Skvortsov, Maria Alexandrova and Nina Kaptsova. Cover – Maria Alexandrova in The Bright Stream. Photos – Darren Thomas.
Compared to their fantastically traditional Le Corsaire, Bolshoi Ballet’s The Bright Stream is a very different production. Arguably, a much more enjoyable production. Where Le Corsaire’s appeal was somewhat limited to committed ballet enthusiasts, The Bright Stream is fun and funny enough to appeal to even the most skeptical of audiences.
The plot is a little superfluous. Essentially, audiences are treated to a collision of quirky personalities in a small Russian farming village. There’s a unifying narrative thread of a visiting ballerina discovering an old friend in the rural community (and the consequences of that interaction) but, like the rest of the production’s plot points, it’s simply a platform for surprisingly hilarious set-pieces of pranks, farce and mistaken identity.
All manner of absurdity is unleashed across the course of the ballet. A cross-dressing man frolicking through fields in hopes of teaching a lecherous old man a lesson. A bicycle-riding man dressed as a dog determined to prank a similarly lecherous younger man. A woman dressed as her friend in hopes of seducing her own husband to remind him to be faithful. If it sounds silly, it most definitely is – but it’s also tremendous fun.
Much of the appeal is related to technique. In contrast to Le Corsaire (which relied heavily on massive unison performances), The Bright Stream is defined more by solos and two- to three-handers. As such, there’s many opportunities to see the real technical brilliance of each of the Bolshoi’s performers. Furthermore, The Bright Stream’s surreal set-ups allow for more ridiculous, showier pieces of choreography.
Credit must also be given to the performer’s dramatic and comedic sensibilities. Having already mastered the particulars of the piece’s choreography, it’s doubly impressive to discover the performers have such a fantastic grasp of character and comedic timing. The piece wouldn’t work without a sense of timing to lend weight to the production’s silliness and the Bolshoi’s performers come through in spades.
The production is made even more interesting by its score. Performed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Schostakovich’s score is far lighter and lither than is considered typical of his work. There’s still some lovely melodic interplay and the occasional blast of sound but it’s much simpler and kinder than his most famous work. Like much of The Bright Stream, it’s as fascinating as it is rewarding.
Many Queenslanders probably saw the Bolshoi Ballet’s arrival in Brisbane as something outside of their interests. The Bright Stream does a great job of advancing the argument that ballet is really capable of entertaining anyone.
Bolshoi Ballet & QPAC present
The Bright Stream
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane
Dates: June 7 – 9, 2013
Tickets: $69 – $274
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246
Performed with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra