It is, and I choose my words carefully, an outrage perpetrated against a central masterpiece in the old classic repertory that remains a sublime example of musical and choreographic grace.
The show comes alive when Swanilda and her friends sneak into Coppélius’s workshop to get a closer look at his lifesize doll. The dancers are deliciously mischievous and the audience eggs them on.
The linchpin of the staging is Edward Watson’s portrayal of Leontes and his descent into a nightmare of jealousy and manic suspicions, which must give the narrative its momentum. Of course, Watson is superb, his body contorted by shapes entirely revelatory, his anger…
With her gentle beauty and bountiful style, Cuthbertson is ideally cast as Hermione, and her incomprehension of Leontes’s manic jealousy and her final, broken collapse are affectingly handled. Watson, meanwhile, finds new registers of mental agony.
Performances are outstanding. Edward Watson, as paranoid Leontes, journeys from domestic bliss to ravaged desolation with utter conviction. Lauren Cuthbertson, as Hermione, brings great dignity to a virtuous wife wronged by a mad husband.
Christopher Wheeldon’s new three-act version of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is a triumph. It is contemporary and classical, traditional and modern, narrative and abstract. It feels like something entirely new.
Zenaida Yanowsky is an outstanding Paulina, both mother figure and divine oracle, and the moment where she recognises Perdita as Hermione’s lost baby is the most moving of the ballet.