Pariah Rustbucket Reviews…’Das flammende Herz’: A Ballet-Biography of Shelley


News has reached this reviewer’s Inbox that a ballet inspired by the life of Percy Bysshe Shelley is to be staged at the Staatsballett Berlin. I refuse to go and see it, so here is my review based on a complete absence of first-hand knowledge, factual information, or indeed anything whatsoever.

‘Das flammende Herz’ sounds like somebody having a coughing fit, but it isn’t. It is, rather, a ballet celebrating the life of Shelley, and so we must expect from the outset that it will contain scenes of an immoral and vegetarian nature. If you are of a nervous disposition, look away now.

The first act, which traces Shelley’s childhood and school-days, was somewhat pedestrian; Shelley blows up half the stage, sets fire to the butler, and leaves the remaining cast rather at a loss. The scenes dealing with his expulsion from Oxford were slightly more developed. Shelley argues irrefutably against the existence of a deity by twirling round and round like a pansy before stunning the Fellows of Oxford with a series of star-jumps, leaving the audience marvelling at the weighty and philosophical matters unfolding before them. His meeting with Godwin is also portrayed in this act, with Shelley tap-dancing on Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave as Godwin throws himself into bizarre, incomprehensible attitudes, representing his ongoing bowel problems.

The second act, and the most thought-provoking in this reviewer’s opinion, centres on Shelley’s poetry and its political agenda. The curtain rises, and a spotlight throws a turnip at centre stage into sharp relief. Shelley approaches the turnip with motions expressive of pain, indicating the plight of the labouring poor, and possibly wind. Such poems as ‘Oedipus Tyrannus; or, Swellfoot the Tyrant’ are translated into dance form, and you really haven’t lived until you have witnessed a pig perform a grand jeté. The fact that the pig then fell through the stage is a minor flaw. Shelley’s treatment at the hands of the reviewers is interwoven into this scene; Shelley throws off some spiteful arabesques before pelting his detractors with pig shit (warning: you may wish to bring some sort of umbrella or large hat with you to the performance).

The closing act movingly figures Shelley’s untimely death aboard the Don Juan and subsequent cremation, watched by Leigh Hunt, Trelawny, and Byron. The mourning of these three figures is gracefully enacted. Hunt pulls the shape of a Grecian Urn, Byron imitates the shape of a plate of potatoes and vinegar whilst Trelawny runs about the stage like a tit. The curtain falls on a collection of unnamed dancers, representing Shelley’s future audience, who smear the pages of his work with the remains of the pig shit whilst falling into raptures.

Your reviewer came away moved, if slightly malodorous, and in conclusion, this is a must for anyone with an interest in Shelley, turnips, pigs or bowel complaints.


6 Responses to “Pariah Rustbucket Reviews…’Das flammende Herz’: A Ballet-Biography of Shelley”

  1. johnlebaptiste Says:

    ‘Whilst Trelawny runs about the stage like a tit’. Snicker.

    I can see Rudolph Nureyev playing that role. With my mind, not my eyes obviously.

  2. pariahrustbucket Says:

    No-one wants to see a grown man in tights with their eyes.

  3. Banjo Fett Says:

    Unless it’s Batman.

  4. john le baptiste Says:

    Batman’s glutes are something to behold, it’s true.

  5. Banjo Fett Says:

    Oh God yeah. But if he started fannying about with turnips and pig shit in some ballet I’d cancel my subscription.

  6. oldrope Says:

    Linford Christie to play Batman in the latest instalment of the current franchise.

    It’s called Batman Leggings

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