The Royal Ballet’s Elizabeth is a “rich tapestry of divine artistry”

Elizabeth. Katie Deacon, Zenaida Yanowsky and Yury Yanowsky. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.

The Royal Ballet’s production of Elizabeth is a mesmerising rich tapestry of ballet, opera, theatre and classical music, performed by the divine former principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky as Elizabeth with her brother, Boston Ballet principal Yury Yanowsky, as her many suitors.

Elizabeth. Zenaida Yanowsky as Elizabeth. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton
Elizabeth. Zenaida Yanowsky as Elizabeth. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton

Presented at the Barbican, the intimate stage is bare except for a golden backdrop, soft yellow lights and a single cellist. Elizabeth enters and we’re taken on an emotional, intriguing and at times humorous journey through the formidable monarch’s life and loves, choreographed by the acclaimed Will Tuckett.

Elizabeth. Zenaida Yanowsky as Elizabeth. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton
Elizabeth. Zenaida Yanowsky as Elizabeth. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton

We are drawn into the noble realm by the Elizabethan era sounds from the cellist who accompanies Zenaida as she performs the Elizabethan inspired solos and pas de deux, with the different men that Yury becomes. He is a splendid actor, transforming into the devoted, the comical, and the traitor with ease, giving each character a distinct twist and physical style.

Zenaida Yanowsky in Will Tuckett's Elizabeth © ROH, 2016. Photographed by Andrej Uspenski
Zenaida Yanowsky in Will Tuckett’s Elizabeth © ROH, 2016. Photographed by Andrej Uspenski

The narrated words of Elizabeth I, her lovers and contemporaries move us through the Queen’s reigning years, as she deals with matters of the court and those of her heart.

Zenaida’s portrait of the complex Queen is breathtaking. Her acting prowess radiates both as the regal head of state and a woman whose heart breaks through love, loss and treachery.

Elizabeth. Zenaida Yanowsky and Yury Yanowsky. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton
Elizabeth. Zenaida Yanowsky and Yury Yanowsky. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton

As the Queen, Zenaida moves with grace and poise of an ordained royalty, her arms are strong and movements precise. In love she dances with abandon, she throws her head back, she is more wild, her body free.  

Elizabeth. Zenaida Yanowsky as Elizabeth. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.
Elizabeth. Zenaida Yanowsky as Elizabeth. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.

Zenaida’s natural presence and elegance is befitting a monarch and she pours intense emotion into each scene. Each step she performs is both controlled and exposed, delivered with a refined balance of confidence and vulnerability that is utterly spellbinding.

Elizabeth. Katie Deacon and Zenaida Yanowsky. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.
Elizabeth. Katie Deacon and Zenaida Yanowsky. © ROH, 2018. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.

The superb cast delivers flawless acting, singing and dancing, perfectly weaving their artistry around each other and the accompanying music, in this absorbing and satisfying production of Elizabeth I.

Reviewed at Barbican on 17 May 2018.

Subscribe