Aeternum

Royal Ballet, 2013

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Winner 2013 Olivier Award: Best New Dance Production

Winner 2013 Critic’s Circle National Dance Award: Best Classical Production

 

 

 

Music by Benjamin Britten, 1940

Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon

Stage and Costume Design by Jean-Marc Puissant

Lighting by Adam Silverman

 

 

 

Producion Manager: Colin Maxwell

Costume Supervisor: Donna Guadanini

Hair and Make Up Supervisor: Melanie Bouvet

Costume Makers: Amanda Barrow, Sasha Keir

Images © I. Kerslake, T. Kenton and courtesy of Royal Opera House

“Puissants set is both apt and magnificent.”

Jann Parry

While Britten’s score is strongly associated with the horror of war, my aim was to address the physical and emotional devastation generated by conflict, and subsequent traumas. The dance unfolds within the physical expression of a moment existing between violence and its aftermath. The audience is encouraged and guided to read clues imbedded in the choreography and the designs, prompted by the score to fill in gaps voluntarily left opened by the non-narrative form of the production.

 

Aeternum follows the emotional journey of a female character, scanning through sequences of her life, surrounded by a cast of dancers embodying emotions and memories.

 

As she reaches the aftermath, the physical context and expression of violence have vanished, leaving her surrounded by space and light.

 

The New York Times by Alastair Macaulay

The handsome décor by Jean-Marc Puissant mutates during the work. A calligraphic pattern of planks at the back rises into the air and changes shape before vanishing, to be replaced finally by a single square floor with upended far corners like distant mountains. A range of costumes are in speckled black, white and rust colors.

 

The Times by Debra Craine

Jean-Marc Puissant’s gorgeous set is a fascinating construct that looks like a giant splintered wood fence hanging over the stage.

 

The Sunday Times by David Dougill

Jean-Marc Puissant, one of Wheeldon’s regular designers, has created a stunning construction that looms over the stage like fragmenting stones or bones, timbers or feathers. It eventually ascends out of view.

 

The Independent by Jenny Gilbert

A giant, floating sculpture (design, Jean-Marc Puissant) embodies the apocalyptic gloom of Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem. I found myself mesmerised by this flattened, grey version of Cornelia Parker’s exploding shed, suggesting a new kind of nuclear cumulonimbus. It starts on the floor, rises as if riding a thermal, then turns spectacularly on its axis, like a lamb on a spit.

 

The Observer by Luke Jennings

The piece is impressively designed by Jean-Marc Puissant, with an elaborately evolving set composed of feathery driftwood boards.

 

Metro by Siobhan Murphy

Jean-Marc Puissant’s massive, rotating, driftwood structure, like a dinosaur’s ribcage, lowers over the dancers, who, surging around in menacing washes of movement, appear almost squashed by the thundering, then frenzied music.

 

Financial Times by Clement Crisp

Against a handsome assemblage of curved forms by Jean-Marc Puissant which reveal themselves with increasing power as the work develops, Wheeldon’s cast are impelled, hard-driven by their choreography as the score takes its turbulent way.

 

British Theatre Guide by Vera Liber

Jean-Marc Puissant’s vast abstract sculpture of broken timber feathers that hangs like Damocles’ sword over the action, dwarfing the dancers, catches the essence of Paul Nash’s war paintings. Britten’s pacifism is honoured in his centenary year.

 

The Telegraph by Mark Monahan

Lit and designed like a beautifull battlefield.

 

Dance Tabs by Jann Parry

Jean-Marc Puissant’s sculptural set for Aeternum suggests a shattered landscape that lifts away for a vision of the hereafter. As the slow Lacrymosa march builds to a crescendo, the set’s dense frieze of wooden fragments expands above the swirling bodies below. Puissant’s set is both apt and magnificent.

 

The Independent by Zoe Anderson

Jean-Marc Puissant’s monumental set, a criss-cross of wooden ribs, is lifted and shifted throughout the work.

 

Londondance.com by Graham Watts

It opens strongly with a similar dynamism to his DGV: Danse á Grande Vitesse, Wheeldon’s finest work for the Royal Ballet to date, and unsurprisingly shares the same set designer (Jean-Marc Puissant) who brings a strong angular, almost prehistoric feel to the work.

 

Theatre Review by Mark Ronan

Wheeldon’s powerful choreography was complemented by a hugely impressive three-dimensional backdrop by Jean-Marc Puissant, cleverly lit by Adam Silverman. At the start of Part I and end of Part II a body lies on the stage, but in Part III all is clear with the backdrop lifted, and just before the final curtain two silhouettes walk away from the audience.