ENB rendition of the classical ballet, Giselle, choreographed by Akram Khan was a sight to behold. This simply stunning performance had me on the edge of my seat. I was lucky enough to attend the world premiere and opening night of this powerful piece with my auntie, who’s review accurately captures the magic of the performance and can be found at https://opening-night.org/2016/09/28/english-national-ballet-giselle/. However, I myself am no reviewer just a fashionista who was in awe of the majestic dancers and their beautiful costumes which further added to the themes of love, betrayal, division and the afterlife. Tim Yip, Academy-Award Winning artist, who has previously worked on the likes of the hit martial arts film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, was responsible for the breathtaking visual and costume design. Each costume perfectly enacptured the character it possessed and below I will be discussing some of my favourite pieces from the night.
In Khan’s rendition of the romantic two-Act ballet we saw the Outcasts, a community of peasant factory workers, living in disarray after being discarded by their employers and forced to live trapped behind a solid concrete wall at the mercy of their wealthy landlords. Giselle finds life and love in this dark world, in a wealthy suitor who disguises himself as a humble peasant. Yip provided modest, light, simple but elegant dresses which enhanced the female dancers every graceful movement and for the male dancers Yip provided smart yet moderate shirts with bland grey trousers, again made out of light material so as to highlight each majestic movement. To ensure the two star-crossed lovers stood out Yip intentionally placed Giselle in a blue to contrast with the yellow dresses worn by the rest of the female ensemble and ensured Albrecht was identifiable by simply tucking his shirts into his trousers whilst the rest of the male cast’s shirts hung loose. The simplicity ensured the audience did not loose track of the protagonist when en masse and also added to their characters. The blue of Giselle’s dress was a sign of her impending doom and the decision to tuck in Albrecht’s shirt was a apparent sign of his wealth making him stick out like a sore thumb among the scruffy peasant folk.
Yip further fuelled the social and economic division between the peasants and their landlords through their costumes. The dazzling and glittering costumes worn by the landlords were worlds away from the meek, ordinary dress of the peasants. Full of intricate glittering sequin embroidery, lavish satin and velvet the landlords were the epitome of wealth and greed. The eccentricity of the landlords costumes likened itself to the people of the Capitol in The Hunger Games series. Amongst the plain, dull peasants its safe to say I was drawn to the sparking and lavish landlords.
The costumes of the Wills, the ghostly inhabitants of the factory-esq afterlife, perfectly portrayed their haunting nature. Like the female peasants they wore simple light dresses but theirs were jagged at the ends with an ombre of lilac to black, further enhancing their ghostly nature.
It wasn’t only the costumes that were utilised to further demonstrate the themes it was the visual design and staging also. The simple yet powerful staging that consisted solely of a thick concrete wall that divided the two worlds ensured the focus never strayed from the performance but furthered it. It represented the bleak world that the peasants live in and ensured the landlords stood out further on their arrival.
The emotive, moving and unforgettable performance left attendees hungry for more. The visual and costume design perfectly depicted the dark tale and accurately captured its motifs and themes. Khan’s Giselle is at the Palace Theatre until the 1st October and it will be moving on to Bristol. I would highly recommend this spellbinding performance to anyone and I would recommending getting your hands on tickets now as I am sure they are going to go fast!