REVIEW: Sergei Polunin at London Palladium: Rasputin

Elena Ilinykh and Alexey Lyubimov in RASPUTIN. Credit Alexey Kerkis

Sergei Polunin chose to present the story of the mysterious Russian character Rasputin, for his second programme at the London Palladium.

The story of the self-proclaimed holy man who ingratiated himself with the Russian royal family at the turn of the century was choreographed by Yuka Oishi, who had already created two of three pieces in Polunin’s Programme I triple bill. Perhaps it was seeing her work earlier in the week that diminished the impact of the piece, even though it was presented on a chess board with large scale chess pieces on the stage.

Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov
Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov

With a pared back cast of four other performers including Polunin’s champion ice skating girlfriend as the Tsar’s wife, Oishi lavished the balletic steps not on Polunin but on the impressive Johan Kobborg and Alexey Lyubimov and the young and versatile Djordje Kalenic.

Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov
Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov

What starts off as a more traditional piece, with a young boy who falls ill being saved by the machiavellian Rasputin, quickly reduces to a strange show with Kobborg dancing around in red high heels being chased, and almost tormented, by Polunin who then attempts to kiss him ending up smeared with his red lipstick. It was a weird scene and I’m not sure it gave the right message. But luckily Oishi did give Polunin a few moments of actual dancing that showed his tremendous leaps and pirouettes that made the Russian crowd roar.

Johan Kobborg, Elena Ilinykh, Sergei Polunin, Djordje Kalenic & Alexey Lyubimov in RASPUTIN Credit Vitaly Krivtsov
Johan Kobborg, Elena Ilinykh, Sergei Polunin, Djordje Kalenic & Alexey Lyubimov in RASPUTIN Credit Vitaly Krivtsov

Although Oishi created a complex Rasputin, it was Polunin’s compelling performance that brought the dark character to life through his crazed-like interpretation. But the piece would be far more satisfying if Polunin was given more to work with, particularly with the dramatic music by Kirill Richter.

Djordje Kalenic and Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov
Djordje Kalenic and Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov
Johan Kobborg in RASPUTIN. Credit Alexey Kerkis
Johan Kobborg in RASPUTIN. Credit Alexey Kerkis
Johan Kobborg and Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov
Johan Kobborg and Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov
Djordje Kalenic and Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov
Djordje Kalenic and Sergei Polunin in RASPUTIN. Credit Vitaly Krivtsov

Reviewed at London Palladium 31 May 2019.

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