With its extravagant production of Manon, The Australian Ballet once again brings ethereal beauty to life. Originally a novel from the 18th century, Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s work from 1974 is revived for contemporary audiences with generous measures of drama and humour that ensure broad appeal. The story interweaves romance with deception, murder and debauchery, resulting in a show that is full of entertainment, while providing extraordinary aesthetic pleasure.
Madeleine Eastoe is a delicate Manon. She anchors the show with a charming confidence, and her energetic execution of choreography delivers a characterisation that is endearing and precise. Eastoe’s captivating depiction of Manon’s journey is crystal clear, and her final moments are moving in their palpability.
Dana Stephensen is memorable as Lescaut’s mistress, with a striking vivacity that connects well with the audience. She plays up the comical elements of her role with subtlety, and attacks her dance with an alluring dynamism that is often breathtaking. Brett Chynoweth as Lescaut impresses and steals the show in Act 2 with sequences portraying his drunkenness. Chynoweth’s performance of the stunning choreography is highly amusing, but also technically powerful.
Manon‘s design elements are magnificent. Peter Farmer’s costume and set design are lavish and imaginative. It is an immense treat to have a fantasy world materialise before one’s eyes. Farmer’s six different sets are not just heavenly backdrops, and his costumes are not merely pretty adornment. We marvel at his genius, and lose ourselves in the sublime world he has created.
On display in Manon are artists of supreme talent and ability, almost not of this world. Their work lifts us out of our mundane realities, and takes us to a place far, far away.