Madness and the Russian Revolution

Today I decided to try something different for dinner. Having used the Syrian cookbook for the barbecue (not on it) on Saturday, I wanted to attempt one of the main courses. I went for fetteh makdous. Stuffed aubergine for the uninitiated.

While it received great plaudits and has now been included on the Chez Gaz menu, I did make a few mistakes which I shall correct next time I make it. Still, mistakes aside, it was delicious.

Purists beware! I forgot the parsley.

I intend to try a fish dish tomorrow, also from Syria, so I stocked up at Waitrose this morning (being a Monday). This enabled me to get a photo of the queue blocking scaffolding from last week. It is no longer blocking the queue. I reckon it must have caused a bit of annoyance while they were erecting it.

It was a Bank Holiday Monday today so Mirinda didn’t work. I, on the other hand, was busy planting things in the garden and cooking.

Mirinda decided we should try dahlias again. The slugs and snails appear to have moved on to more fruitful gardens. However, it is my contention that once the dahlias start appearing above the ground, they will return. It will be a clarion call, announcing the arrival of an open restaurant following a pandemic lockdown.

I also planted a few primulas, geraniums and a single, lovely little fuchsia.

Mirinda took the girls on her Frensham Country Walk while I shovelled away. By the time she returned we were ready to watch the Royal Ballet production of Anastasia.

I can’t say I was particularly thrilled by it. Dance for the sake of dance never really appeals to me. I can appreciate the skill and beauty but there’s only so much classic ballet I can remain interested in.

The story, on the other hand, was very good. It is about Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, daughter of the last Russian ruler, Tsar Nicholas II. Well, the first half is. The second half is about the deluded memories of Anna Anderson, an imposter who claimed to be Anastasia, having escaped the execution of the family during the Russian Revolution.

The dancer playing Anastasia/Anna (Natalia Osipova) was amazing. The difference between the bright, happy, overly-privileged Grand Duchess in the first half compared with the crazed mental patient in the second was a tour de force of acting.

Photo from our telly. Anastasia on the right.

I’m always amazed that dancers can also act. This performance was as studied and skilled as the Metamorphosis we saw a few weeks ago. Both leads were very believable.

Of course, being the Royal Ballet, everyone was superb and the production was lavish. The tilted chandeliers, sloping floor and magic gurney were particularly cool. In fact, there were only two things that bored me.

Firstly the constant need to repeat everything. If the sisters danced once with the officers they danced 100 times. If the ball was enacted once, it was worth enacting another couple of times. And what was with the couple (she in tutu) having a little duet dance in the middle of the ball?

Mirinda says this weirdness is a pas de deux and features in most classical ballets. I think it’s an excellent way to hold up the action with a bit of prettiness. While ballet aficionados may coo over it, someone like me just wants the story to keep moving along.

Which brings me to the second thing.

Originally, Kenneth MacMillan created Act III in 1967, as a single act ballet featuring just the mad Anna Anderson. He then added the prequel bits in 1970 for the Royal Ballet. Both parts could easily be performed separately, though connected.

I’d have very much liked to have seen both. On different days.

Photo from the telly. Mad Anna watching home movies.

Still, Mirinda enjoyed it and that, after all is said and down, is all that really matters. And I did get to sit down for two hours with a beer then a gin.

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