Lest We Forget

Playhouse (Queensland Ballet)


A century on, the Great War of 1914 to 1918 continues to challenge us all to find meaning amidst the carnage. The Queensland Ballet’s Lest We Forget does elegant justice to the pathos of war. Somehow it expresses beauty in the midst of horror through three short pieces.

Ballet is a sufficiently abstract art to capture dimensions where words dare not go. The first piece is ‘In the Best Moments’, choreographed by Ma Cong. Clare Morehen and Shane Wuerthner dance to the chanting meditation that is the music of Philip Glass, ‘The Hours Suite’. Their athleticism and discipline put us in mind of soldiers of all nations who were pitted into the killing machine. Yanela Pinera and Laura Hidalgo dance brilliantly in this fine, spare study.

The second piece is a profoundly moving work choreographed by internationally acclaimed local Natalie Weir to the music of Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’. This music was inspired by the words of Wilfred Owen, soldier and poet in World War I. The futility of war has never been better glimpsed – ‘Was it for this the clay grew tall?’. Weir’s craft achieves some triumph of love in the midst of the devastation. Eleanor Freeman and Jack Lister embrace amidst the many empty boots of soldiers who did not return.

Merriment in the face of adversity explodes in the third piece, ‘Company B’, to the popular tunes of the Andrews Sisters. Terri Crilly delights and charms the audience in ‘Pennsylvania Polka’. Joel Woellner is an energetic, crowd-pleasing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B). Some folk had a good war.

It is good to see the Queensland Ballet mounting original works like Natalie Weir’s ‘We Who are Left’. If ballet is to be a living art form it must continually re-imagine itself, to be genuinely creative and not merely commemorative.

Choreographers: Ma Cong, Natalie Weir and Paul Taylor
Music by: Philip Glass, Benjamin Britten and the Andrew Sisters
Lighting design: David Walters and Jennifer Tipton
Costume design: Noelene Hill and Santo Loquasto
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes with two 20 minute intervals
Season: 29 July to 6 August 2016

— Matt Foley
(Performance seen: Fri 29th July 2016)