The figure of Cassandra, a woman who speaks the truth but is never believed, is an enduring archetype, forcefully combining tragedy with irony. Those qualities are lacking in Ludovic Ondiviela’s curiously hollow new ballet, but it does not lack for talent. Rising young choreographer Ondiviela, until recently a dancer with the Royal Ballet, has assembled an accomplished cast from his former company; he partners with creative collaborators Ana Silvera (composer and singer) and Kate Church (film-maker), and is supported by polished sets (Becs Andrews) and lighting (Paul Keogan) for the ballet’s various scenes of office, home and hospital.
Yet they are often at odds with each other and with the lurching storyline. Cassandra – a decorous Olivia Cowley – is a young woman working in finance. She has an equally decorous boyfriend (Thomas Whitehead), but when she comes home to her mother (Mara Galeazzi)and brother (Paul Kay), she suddenly goes mad, as signalled by resounding chords, flashing lights and screened closeups of cracked skin.
What triggers this cataclysm? Work? Home? Love? It is neither explained nor explored. Ondiviela is much more interested in her family than in Cassandra herself; certainly, Galeazzi and Kay become much the most convincing characters, and indeed bring the most gravitas to their roles. The rest of the cast are underused and under-choreographed, with the possible exception of Yuhui Choe, whose bizarre turn as a nurse posing prettily in front of her own video image punctures any sense of tragedy or seriousness.
The piece is very well produced – and perhaps that’s the problem. The lovely live music, the silvery voice of Silvera (who appears intermittently as Ancient Cassandra), the classy black-and-white videography, the professional finish throughout: all conspire to tame Cassandra – both her character and the ballet – with pleasing effects and good taste.