1 FEBRUARY 1963, Page 19


King of Cats


tiocles. For the first time in his career Nureyev Was appearing with the Royal Ballet, rather than having the Royal Ballet as his backcloth. It was a milestone passed.

Obviously if Nureyev was ever to play a part in British ballet—and it is still not certain whether he wants to—he had to extend his range beyond romantic princes and party pieces. He had to be absorbed into the general repertory. The only problem was how. Previously he had shown a certain fine disregard for choreography, pre- ferring his personal versions of the classics to our own. Now here he was subjugating himself to the team, and at the end one felt like clapping him all the way back to the pavilion.

What was particularly interesting about Nureyev in Antigone was the manner in which he absorbed the character of the role. As one of Thebes's fratricidal brothers, he had a purring quality of menace. Like Tybalt, he was a King of Cats. The ballet perhaps calls for a more forceful malevolence, yet Nureyev's insinuating power proved deeply impressive. He also, as in Giselle, showed that rare static quality in a dancer that can make stillness memorable.

Sharing the programme with Antigone were two MacMillan ballets, the admirable Diver- sions, weighed down by its Bliss score yet buoyantly triumphant through its choreography, and The Invitation. The latter is both unusual and uneven. Its theme is the corruption of inno- cence. Set in a romantically inclined Edwardian country house, it shows with clinical skill and poetic insight the rape of a young girl and the seduction of a young boy, and gives a creditable snapshot of a society in decay.

Its merits and its faults are equally enormous. The ballet's construction is ramshackle; a wan- dering narrative filled in with obsessive and irrelevant detail, and complicated by an un- necessary strain of symbolism, the work needs simplicity. What is more, the ballet's basic cynicism and its apparent failure to come to terms with the facts of sex still leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Yet its importance cannot easily be overstressed. It is one of the Royal Ballet's very few and welcome attempts at a realistic dramatic work, and for much of its length MacMillan has produced astonishingly honest and powerful choreography.

The huge popular success of The Invitation indicates the ballet audience's hunger for more variety in its all too classical fare. But it is also a tribute to, of course, MacMillan and the ballet's inspired casting. Lynn Seymour as the raped adolescent brings a quality of depth to her characterisation almost unequalled in con- temporary ballet. The others, Christopher Gable as the young boy, Desmond Doyle as the rapist husband and Anya Linden as the accommodat- ing wife, all give performances stamped through with truth. As I suggested when it was first given two years ago, it is a ballet very much to be seen.

'Darling ! He's made his first satirical remark.'