Sunday, September 14, 2008

Frederick Ashton (1904-1988)

When I was a kid living in London, I remember seeing Frederick Ashton as one of the Ugly Sisters in the Royal Ballet's 'Cinderella'.

I recall two things vividly.

The first was the psychologically complex characterization: the warm, teasing, self-centred, loving, vain, vulnerable, shy, sly, nervous ... monster! In comparison with Robert Helpmann's much more broad-brush-stroke panto creation - as the other sibling. Some of all this is captured in the following photos:

The second occurred at the Ball. Each sister was vie-ing for the tall handsome prince as partner, as opposed to the other short ordinary-looking one. Of course Helpmann's tough and go-getting sister wins out. But then cunningly and placatingly whispers something in her gentler sister's ear - drawing a surreptitious but long glance at the diminutive prince's crotch. With a slow lascivious smile spreading over her face!

After the performance, I was introduced to Ashton and asked him to sign a book I'd just been given about his choreography.

Without being able to think just what to say to such a young person, Ashton gently declared that it was raining outside and my book would need a mackintosh (raincoat) to get it home safely.

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