On Centre Stage.
La Fille Mal Gardee. The Queensland Ballet. Playhouse Theatre QPAC. Choreographer Marc Ribaud. Music performed by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra. Conductor Nigel Gaynor. Runs until August 19.
The Queensland Ballet’s (QB) delightfully entertaining, and sometimes laugh-out-loud, production of La Fille Mal Gardee (The Wayward Daughter), is a compelling mix of polished top-class ballet and classic pantomime.
This work, which has been around in one form or another since 1789, features the enchanting music of Ferdinand Herold and the inspired choreography of contemporary Marc Ribaud.
In this review I will refer to the artists performing in the matinee I saw but it is worth noting that the major roles are rotated.
The slight story – which could be told in five or 10 minutes rather than the show’s two hour length with a twelve-minute interval – is one of true love over family commitment.
Lise (Mia Heathcote) is the only daughter of the Widow Simone (Jack Lister) who, despite her rustic comic manner, runs a successful agricultural farm.
The Widow Simone is keen for Lise to marry the likeable, but rather dim Alain (Camilo Ramos), but our lovebird is smitten by Colas (Victor Estevez) who has the rugged swagger of a Danny in the hit pop musical Grease.
The whole of the ballet, which has been set in the French countryside of the 1950s, fixates on the widow’s attempts to keep Lise away from Colas and throw her into the arms of Alain to please his highly successful wine merchant father Thomas (Samuel Packer).
The ballet, which continues the modern QB’s association with narrative-driven stories with strong comic themes, is a highly theatrical work and instant crowd pleaser.
The straight lovers, with the support of friends, the villagers and the village children, generally give us the classic ballet treatment, while the comic antics are largely left to the widow, Alain and Thomas.
Estevez and Heathcote’s duets are stunning and, at times, breathtaking but it is the comic cuts who have the audiences rolling in the aisles.
Ramos’ awkward Alain and Packer’s wonky old man are funny enough, but Lister’s pantomime Dame, complete with some wonderful clog dancing, had the audience in stitches.
Throw in some cute kids, a wonderful trio of sets from Richard Roberts, the magical Queensland Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Nigel Gaynor and even a scooter, motor bike and bike and you have a night to remember.
La Fille Mal Gardee is not only great family value, but one of those events which genuinely allows you to leave your cares at the door and come out of the theatre feeling as light as a cloud.
What a great night out (or in our case afternoon).