Manon Review

Mayflower Theatre Southampton -until 3rd November 2018

Reviewed by Nicky Wyatt


Keith Macmillan and the English National Ballet have brought Manon out of London on tour on tour for only the 2nd time in over 30 years.

It is a huge production with lots of dancers on stage for the majority of the time. There is so much to see and follow, that at times I didn’t know who to watch for fear of missing something.

Manon is sad story. A young girl looking for love who is used, manipulated and almost groomed by all but one of the men in her life. Delivered over 3 acts we are first greeted by a very busy bustling scene, set in the courtyard of a local inn. It is full of courtesans enjoying a drink and more than a little frivolity. Amongst the busy crowd are three men that will have a huge impact on the young naive pre convent girl.

We meet her brother Lecscaut, Ken Saruhashi, a man she should be safe with. Sadly he realises he sister Manon, Erina Takahashi, has earning potential for him as he sets out to sell her off to the highest bidder. Watching the beautiful Manon arrive are two men , one who falls in love with her Des Grieux, Jeffrey Cirio, and the wealthy Monsieur GM. The young couple flirt and are clearly falling each other when they decide to run away to Paris, taking the money that Manon has stolen from the old gent that shared a coach with her Michael Coleman he too has an interest and the sly Lescaut gets him and the Monsieur to up their bids. All the time the lovers are dancing and planning to escape. There is a wonderful dance where Manon is literally passed around overhead between these 4 men,
quite breathtaking to watch. She makes her escape with Des Grieux to his flat where they tempt and tease each other. As she sleeps he writes to his father asking for money as they are going to go to Paris. Once she is awake he goes out to post his letter, while he is gone she is found at the flat by the Monsieur and her brother, he has promised her to him for a price of course. As much as she is in love with Des Grieux she is swayed by beautiful jewels and furs and leaves the flat with him .

The next act takes her to life as a courtesan, she is bestowed with gifts of jewels and fine furs but everything comes at price. The price is she’s on show, on call as are many of the young women at the Madame’s hotel if ill repute. Girls dance as the men sit and leer and of course touch. There are some quite funny moments in this act, keep an eye at the back of the stage as one of the harlots gets busy! All the girls are vying for attention of the men sat around. Among these men are not only Monsieur GM and Lescaut who are busy making plans but also the heartbroken Des Grieux who is looking for Manon. He spies and tries hard to get her attention she tries hard to ignore him but they can’t resist each other and plot a further escape which all hinges on a card game and Des Grieux winning the money. Sadly it fails. They escape but her brother is arrested. As the lover’s hastily pack their things an argument over jewels delays them and the police arrive to arrest them. A fight sees Lescaut shot dead.

Beside herself Manon is deported along with many prostitutes to New Orleans. They are to be sold. There are no jewels now, heads are shaved or hair is cut short, they look dirty and malnourished. Des Grieux has followed and watches from a distance as she once again becomes a man’s plaything. This time it’s the Gaoler Daniel Kraus. He wants her and will not take no for answer, as gasps from  the audience prove. Des Grieux again comes to her rescue and kills the Gaoler, leaving them free to escape. They run and run which leads them to become lost in a Louisiana swamp. Manon becomes ill and life just ebbs away from her as she dies in her lover’s arms.

The most beautifully danced story with amazing acting throughout. The ENB orchestra led by Gavin Sutherland were absolutely superb. A wonderful evening of ballet and fine score.

My only slight issue was the theatre was unbearably hot which understand the dancers need for their muscles but I would advise you to leave your coats at home.