Death In Venice

Aug 22 2017 | By More

★★★★☆   Charming

Greenside @ Nicolson Square (Venue 209): Mon 21 – Sat 26 August 2017
Review by Linus West

Death in Venice, Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella, is a graceful spin in a dance-theatre adaptation full of character from Edinburgh Ballet Circle.

The company strikes a fine balance, allowing the audience to simultaneously connect with meaningful characters and appreciate some soothing choreography.

A Scene from Death in Venice. Pic Edinburgh Ballet Circle

Gustav von Aschenbach is an esteemed German painter, travelling to Venice in search of artistic inspiration. Ian Dewar embodies the elderly man well, giving off an inquisitive and gentle aroma; easy to get behind and sympathise with.

The set is minimalist, but works well. Lightweight boxes and chairs are moved on and off the stage with ease, giving dancers the freedom to perform where they wish. The sense that the characters are actually walking about the city isn’t quite there – one single strip of fabric alone can’t capture the beauty of those iconic waterways. A bit more detail is needed on that front, but otherwise it’s all good.

Stuart Smith-Gordon takes on the role of young Tadzio, a local boy the frail painter becomes virtually entranced by. His timid expression and curious body language let him portray the character with a delicate twinkle – clearly vulnerable as a deadly cholera outbreak sweeps the streets.

The audience watches on as Aschenbach is alerted to the lethal epidemic, and scrambles to warn the young boy and his family.

seamless transitions

The group’s dancers convey this sense of haste well, with seamless transitions and lively choreography. You can tell they’re passionate about their work, clearly having endured an arduous rehearsal scheme. Nothing jaw-dropping or cutting-edge, but that’s all part of the charm; you can’t help but crack a smile.

An audience unaware of the original text will probably find the story how to follow, while someone looking exclusively for the elegance of ballet will be let down. The performance is a quaint little in-between, targeted at those looking for a soothing spin on a familiar story.

Plenty of effort has been poured in by Richard Marshall in his role as lighting designer. Every call made is the right conveying whatever atmosphere is required with a correct choice of colour. He burdens himself with an above-average number of transitions, yet delivers them all right on cue. A truly professional job.

The show’s weakest point comes unexpectedly, when their farewells go on unnecessarily long. Yet that only illustrates how strong this production is – you have to look beyond the performance itself to find any prominent flaws.

Death In Venice is a fine-tuned production, clearly the product of intense devotion and shrewd thinking. The diverse cast have tangible chemistry, moving about and working together like clockwork. All the while delivering a charming tale with some lovable characters.

Running time 40 minutes (no interval)
Greenside @ Nicolson Square, 25 Nicolson Street, EH8 9BX (Venue 209)
Monday 21 – Saturday 26 August 2017
Daily, 7:45pm.
Find tickets on the EdFringe website:
Company website:
Company Facebook: @EdinburghBalletCircle
Company Twitter: @EdiBalletCircle

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  1. Lighting was actually Matt Turnbull.