The Meridian Season of Carmen – 5 June, St James Theatre

The Meridian Season of Carmen – 5 June, St James Theatre.

Courtenay Place has always been the place to go for binge drinking, catfights, lovers’ spats and celebrity spotting. You just wouldn’t expect the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company to get caught up in that sort of thing.But “Carmen” has all this and more. The show tells the story of a hot-blooded woman charging full tilt towards her dangerous destiny, with music that is immediately recognisable and wholly emotive.

The highlights are the “pas de deux” – duets between Carmen and her prey/lover/castoff, Jose. The stage of the St James seems to be lit by sexual tension alone as their bodies play out the most intimate conversations.

This production twists the original, setting the action in Brazil in the 1990s. The costuming is a bit of a let down, with the washed-out denim, cropped tee-shirts and floral prints reminiscent of a high school show where everyone’s been asked to just bring stuff from home.

Other aspects set the tone perfectly, with Carmen throwing herself into the arms of a crowd of adoring men in imitation of a grunge rocker stage diving into a mosh pit.

There’s not a pointe shoe to be seen in “Carmen” – in fact, the final act has our heroine dancing in high heels, true Latina style. And with part of the traditional orchestration given a modern treatment to match the characterisation of Escamillo as a leather-clad rock star, this is the perfect spicy treat for those think ballet is not their taste.

- Annabel

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