The Bridewell Theatre nestles down behind Fleet Street and St Bride’s Church, in a narrow lane called (unsurprisingly) Bride Lane. The theatre specialises in short 45 minutes dramas that start at 1:00pm. Visitors are encouraged to bring their lunch, to sit for 45 minutes munching while being entertained: a break from their computer screens, blackberries, iPhones – a quiet refreshment of stomach and mind – the imagination workout.
Today (and all last week) The London Ballet Company were performing Poppy, A Symbol of Hope and Remembrance. A balletic interpretation for Remembrance and Armistice Day. While perhaps the choice of music was sentimental and somewhat unsophisticated, it was nevertheless, a moving and beautiful piece. [There are reasons for this, performance copyright being only one].
It is hardly surprising to learn that we followed the fortunes and misfortunes of a single artillery soldier in the First World War, back home on leave with his family and then back to the trenches where he meets his end. His loving wife, meanwhile, joins the VADs, leaving a young daughter with her grandmother.
It was intensely moving. It is hardly a spoiler alert to say that both parents die, one in an incredible ensemble piece, where the dancers were clearly dressed as “poppies”, in scarlet floaty dresses with a thick black waistband, but with German helmets on. Here they enact the death of the soldier, eventually carrying him off stage.
At this point you see his wife, wakeful and worried and you see her decision to “do” something; anything. She appears then in a veteran’s ward with another ensemble of suitably clad nurses, there is a touching simplicity to the arm movements of this troupe, it is clear that they are healers, but also nervously religious. [rehearsal picture only]. After an air-raid, the wife is also killed.
The final ensemble, shows the daughter, dancing a solo, visiting a graveyard, now dressed in her mother’s coat over a scarlet dress. She dreams of her parents meeting in heaven, they appear happy and together. The ensuing pas de deux replicates many of the early dances that we have already seen. Then more dancers appear carrying poppies, and symbolic helmets from WW I through WW II and on towards today.
The finale shows them laying these at the feet of the couple, who now stand slightly apart, and facing away from the audience, while Joan Baez sings Where have all the Flowers gone?
The dance and the choreography were accomplished and imaginative. The sound system was not of the finest, but over all this did not matter terribly. A moving and appropriate way to offer remembrance and respect to the dead.
In case you are annoyed that this is a post-performance piece, may I add that the same company are performing Snow Queen – The Loss of Love (based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy story) on 2nd and 3rd of December in the Canada Water Culture Space.