The Right Ballerina

Written and directed by Billy Cowan
Unity Theatre
1st November 2012

Reviewed by Jennifer Keegan

The Right Ballerina opens with a lonely dancer rehearsing, the incident the play revolves around has already happened and all we see are the repercussions. The ballerina, Penny (played by Helen Macfarlane) has been accused and is guilty of being a member of an extreme right wing political party. A party which has some racist notions in its manifesto. She joined as a young girl and whilst not racist, she does believe in some of their polices on mass immigration. We see Jack, the artistic director (Adam Grayson) of the company she dances for, trying to deal with the publicity and blackmail in the aftermath of the headline. He is being blackmailed by Mr X (Richard Sails), a representative of a secretive group who are large in number and have great influence with their ability to protest and cause disruption, and who wish to see Penny lose her job over her beliefs.

As the play unfolds, the undercurrents play out beautifully - the hidden resentments, disappointment and bitter feeling between Penny and Jack run much deeper than dancer and director. In addition to them being ex-lovers, there was an abortion that was never discussed or emotionally dealt with as the issues of sacrifice and ambition are raised and questioned. As the pressure on both characters mounts, the cracks in their seemingly beautiful world begin to show. Penny blames Jack for resenting her decision to have an abortion and her ability to move on after their relationship ended, Jack blames her ambition as a dancer for her abortion. It is clear that blame and unresolved issues raise the stakes of their current situation.

The climax of the show was disappointing for me. It seemed far too easy just to tie up all the pressure and angst with Jack murdering Penny and claiming she had gone missing. Especially a murder that no one questioned, investigated or explained. The concept of this play was brilliant, showing how people crack under pressure and how when issues are not properly dealt with they can resurface. There was a slight repetitive feeling to the play, not helped by the repetitive music, the pauses and the lights coming on and off with the music. The Mr X character bordered on pointless, as the blackmail could have been explained without his presence. Grayson was brilliant as Jack, but I found Macfarlane a little stiff as Penny. Again, another twenty minutes and an extra scene could have finished off perfectly what started beautifully with so much promise.

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