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The Judas Tree

24 October—1 November 2017
Main Stage

The Royal Ballet performs MacMillan’s complex and controversial work on guilt and betrayal in a compromised time, as part of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration.

When to see it

Introduction

On a building site in London’s East End, the Foreman’s jealousy and betrayal bring about events of appalling violence.

Background

Kenneth MacMillan’s The Judas Tree is his final ballet, and still his most controversial. MacMillan commissioned a score from Brian Elias for the ballet, which had its premiere in 1992. Both MacMillan and Elias were inspired not only by Biblical stories of betrayal but also by contemporary events – the violence in Tiananmen Square; the creation of the financial district in Canary Wharf. As MacMillan admitted of the finished work, ‘There are things in me that are untapped and that have come out in this ballet that I find frightening’.

For the premiere, the only context to the ballet MacMillan offered was a quotation from Kahlil Gibran’s book of poems The Prophet: ‘As a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, so the wrongdoer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.’ In The Judas Tree MacMillan returns to themes that had occupied him throughout his career – complicity and the cruelty of the mob; self-delusion and the rule of fear; sexual violence – in an uncompromising and discomforting final work.

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