Theatre Review: Le Corsaire

Date Posted: 18/10/2013

Pictured: Esteban Berlanga, Max Westwell, and Junor Souza in Le Corsaire.

Having never seen a ballet before, Rachel Bailey was looking forward to joining the Milton Keynes audience of Le Corsaire; a ballet production performed by the English National Ballet which is currently touring the UK.

With a plot based loosely on a poem of the same name by Lord Byron, the show is made up of three acts and follows the story of a pirate named Conrad and his quest to save his one and only, the beautiful Medora, who is at the hands of a slave trader in the Ottoman Empire.

Aesthetically-pleasing stage and costume

As the curtain goes up, the first impressive aspect to hit you is the set design, closely followed by the costumes. I always assume that touring production sets won’t be as impressive as shows housed in one theatre, but I was proved very wrong. Designed by Bob Ringwood, whose film credits include Batman and Troy, the three major scenes depicting the exoticism of the Orient are colourful and perfectly fitting with the romanticism of Conrad’s pursuit of love.

The costume of the dancers is also a spectacle in itself - with no dialogue in such a production, the costume indicates characterisation, making the story clear for those who find it hard to keep up with a tale depicted solely through dance (a.k.a West End musical fans such as I). The glittering tutus, crowns of jewels and ornamented gowns also provide something sparkly to entertain younger audience members whose attentions may wander.

A professional performance from the whole company

Led by Zdenek Konvalina as Conrad and Ksenia Ovsyanick as Medora, Le Corsaire is made up of three acts with two 20 minute intervals. Now I know very little of ballet but every dance move appeared to be perfectly executed; each pirouette and arabesque was faultless and often awe-inspiring. Of course, when you’re going to see a ballet, one can only assume it is the dancing you are going for, and in this case, you will not be disappointed. There are several fantastic solos, some heated leaping around, and a delightful trio of girls in tutus who had every eye glued to them throughout their performance.

I personally found the second act the most engaging; a love scene set in a cave of treasures followed by a stabbing and a group of fighting pirates were most appealing, compared to the first and third acts which are very ‘showy’ in terms of the dancing and less action-packed.

Well-deserved applause, for dancers and orchestra

The company as a whole is incredibly impressive, traversing the stage in leaps and bounds, and glowing at the abundance of audience applause (apparently you have to clap a lot when you go and see a ballet). One thing I noticed, which pleased me greatly, was that every dancer has a smile glued to his or her face from the start to the very end when the curtain drops. Professionalism exudes from each dancer’s performance - not that you’d expect anything less from the English National Ballet - and I found it really impressive. Even the youngest members of the troupe (who skip in dressed as butterflies during the third act to many ‘aaaahs’ from the audience) were just as poised and professional as the older and more experienced ballet dancers.

Finally, I should mention that the accompanying orchestra, which plays a wonderful score with music from Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo and many more, also helps with identifying what is happening on stage with regard to a character’s emotions. The talents of the musicians seemed much more noticeable with no vocals to distract from the haunting tune of a flute or the angry toots of the brass section.

Overall I’d say that Le Corsaire is definitely worth going to see if you get the chance, and don’t be deceived into thinking you need to be a ballet expert to enjoy it -  there are plenty of surprises to ‘keep you on your toes’ throughout.

The national tour of Le Corsaire will visit UK venues including The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton and the New Theatre in Oxford, and is currently touring until February. Group travel organisers should contact their chosen venue for group rates and discounts. 

For further group travel information visit

Photo Credit: 2013 Guy Farrow

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