BWW Reviews: From the Television Archives- John Cranko's THE LADY AND THE FOOL and PINEAPPLE POLL
By Jennifer Fried
On a rainy August day I curled up on the couch with BBC's recently released and re-mastered television broadcast of John Cranko's The Lady and the Fool and Pineapple Poll. Accustomed to contemporary ballet sensibilities, I was a bit skeptical of the black and white recording of these two 1959 performances, yet, as the comic ballets unfolded on my television screen, I slowly fell in love with the character dance and theatricality that are highly reminiscent of an old fashioned musical comedy.
The Lady and the Fool satirizes the pomp and sass of upper class London Society. While traveling to attend a fancy ball La Capricciosa, wearing a mask and danced by the beautiful Svetlana Beriosova, meets two clowns, Moondog and Bootface, danced by Ronald Hynad and Ray Powell. The two clowns dance a delightfully clumsy duet for the entertainment of La Capricciosa, who decides to take them to the ball, where society ladies search for well-heeled husbands. La Capricciosa is approached by three suitors and turns them down. She then removes her mask and promptly falls in love with Moondog. The two dance a passionate, yet always satirical pas de deux. The ballet concludes with La Capricciosa falling asleep on a bench with the two clowns. True love happens not with a proper stuffy upper class suitor, but with a joyful and funny clown, A bit strange, but life has a way of playing tricks on us.
Similar in satirical tone, Pineapple Poll, reminiscent of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, did not fail to entertain and capture my attention. The precision of ballet technique was eclipsed by witty moments of character dance. The lustful sailors on shore attempting to steal the hearts of the ladies left me laughing out loud. Particularly pleasing was Pineapple Poll, danced by Merle Park, especially as she boarded the sailor's ship and danced as if she were one of the men. Dancing en pointe, the Captain Belaye, David Blair, is totally unaware that he has a female on board. After leaving the ship to return to his future bride, Captain Belaye discovers that not only Pineapple Poll, but other crew members, are female! Because of the farce, the once lame and undesirable Jasper (Stanley Holden) receives a promotion to Captain and, in return, the love and affection of all the ladies who once rejected him. As always, a nice touch to end a ballet.
Both of Cranko's works recall a time when ballet entertained audiences with movement and a clear comic story. They make us smile for a time in ballet history that can never be re-captured. These works are certainly worth revisiting for younger and older audiences alike.
Image courtesy of brb.org.uk
More On: John Cranko, Svetlana Beriosova, Merle Park.