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English National Ballet’s Le Corsaire at London Coliseum | Review

English National Ballet's Le CorsaireA red carpet occasion to celebrate ENB’s 70th Anniversary and a host of stars on stage and in the audience. From my seat I was in touching distance of Darcey Bussell, Fiona Bruce, Sir Ian McKellen, Bruno Tonioli and Bill Nighy to name a few. On stage we were treated to a cornucopia of delights; stunning sets taking us into the luxurious and cruel world of the Ottoman Empire, sparkling costumes of red and gold, painted backdrops in the style of Delacroix and Hiroshige gorgeous music (Adolph Adam, Giselle) and dancing from some of the best in the business. A real treat.

Based on Lord Byron’s poem of 1814, Le Corsaire (The Pirate) is a cross between Aladdin, The King and I and the Pirates of the Caribbean. With parts for four leading male dancers and a male troop of pirates and palace security guards (with plenty of swords, daggers and whips) Le Corsaire is the perfect ballet to get boys excited about Ballet. As a father of three sons I know how challenging it can be to get boys to even consider ballet.

As a role model for boys and ballet Francesco Gabriele Frola who dances the romantic lead Conrad is a dream. He has it all, looks, grace, power, athleticism and technique. Like all great artists he makes it look so effortless. He has a wonderful dance sequence with Medora (Erina Takahashi) which felt like the ‘anything you can do I can do better’ scene in Annie Get Your Gun, except it was jumps, turns and postures being traded for one-up personship not rifle shots. Erina’s countless turns on pointe are miraculous and gravity defying. The holds Gabriele and Erina execute are truly breathtaking, her back arching almost to breaking point.

The other outstanding moment that deserves a mention is The Dream Sequence in the fantasy garden. Here the corps de ballet hold hoops decorated with flowers through which Medora tip-toes on pointe without respite. The corps de ballet weave in and out making exquisite patterns that charm, delight and soothe. It’s like a wonderful hot bath on a cold day.

4 stars

Review by John O’Brien

Travel to a faraway land for the adventures of a dashing pirate, Conrad, and his feisty girlfriend Medora. Will they outfox villainous schemers and find happiness on the high seas?

English National Ballet’s Le Corsaire is ‘hugely enjoyable entertainment’ (The Daily Telegraph). Expect a swashbuckling romp, full of thrilling dancing by an extraordinary cast of performers, with gorgeous decors and costumes created by Hollywood’s Bob Ringwood, all set to a romantic score played live by English National Ballet Philharmonic.

English National Ballet is the only UK company to perform this classic story ballet. Their extravagant production, staged by Anna-Marie Holmes, has enthralled audiences and received rave reviews worldwide, including Paris and Tokyo. It returns to the London Coliseum following glorious performances in 2016.

English National Ballet
Le Corsaire
The swashbuckling ballet classic
9 Jan – 14 Jan 2020


  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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