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Your Reaction: Woolf Works 2015

What did you think of Wayne McGregor's new full-length piece for The Royal Ballet?

By Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products)

12 May 2015 at 10.04am | 33 Comments

Press reviews:
Guardian ★★★★★
The Stage ★★★★★
Londonist ★★★★★
Daily Express ★★★★★
Independent ★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★
Time Out ★★★★
The Upcoming ★★★★
Telegraph ★★
Arts Desk (£) ★★

What did you think of Woolf Works?

The production is given with generous philanthropic support from David Hancock, Randa Khoury, Linda and Philip Harley, Victoria Robey, The Woolf Works Production Syndicate and an anonymous donor.

By Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products)

12 May 2015 at 10.04am

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged audience, by Wayne McGregor, premiere, Production, social, The Royal Ballet, twitter, Wayne McGregor, Woolf Works, your reaction

This article has 33 comments

  1. Nick Byrne responded on 12 May 2015 at 11:25am Reply

    So moving, so amazing- far exceeded my expectations. Part 1 probably my favourite- it floored me - was not expect such depth of emotion done with such powerful subtlety. Part 2 great - very McQueen - but what I knew he could/would deliver. Part 3 - wonderful and managed to be both understated and overpowering. The most wonderful first night I've had at the ROH since Mayerling.

  2. DaveM responded on 12 May 2015 at 12:51pm Reply

    Can't wait to see it again. And again. And again with the other cast... :-)

  3. Alex responded on 12 May 2015 at 1:45pm Reply

    I am really looking forward to seeing the Yuhui Choe/ Yasmine Naghdi/ Fumi Kaneko/ Mendizabal cast on Thursday!

  4. Alex responded on 12 May 2015 at 2:12pm Reply

    Really looking forward to see it on Thursday with the Yuhui Choe/ Yasmine Naghdi/ Fumi Kaneko cast!

  5. Stuart Dixon responded on 12 May 2015 at 2:18pm Reply

    Initially wasn't sure but soon converted. Fantastic performance. Many, many congratulations to all involved. Music, lighting, costumes, but particularly WM plus a wonderful, talented cast. Buy a ticket now.

  6. LabLady responded on 12 May 2015 at 4:19pm Reply

    Right, I’m going into print with this before I have seen what the press made of last night’s premiere of Wayne McGregor’s WOOLF WORKS, in case they alter my view of what was one of the most incredible performances I have ever seen at ROH. The choreographer Wayne McGregor is bordering on genius; how he can convey to an audience by movement and music alone, what is virtually impossible to convey with the pen is beyond everyday folk’s understanding.

    The trouble with this production is that on paper, it would make many baulk at the idea of spending an evening examining the loneliness, desperation and frustration of recurring bouts of “madness” (as Virginia Woolf herself referred to her “disease”). However, because of the artistic quality of what has been created, instead of feeling despairing, it is more akin to hearing a distant bell or finally spotting something your companion is anxiously trying to get you to spot on the horizon. I had a flash, several times of “Oh, I SEE what it must be like”. So so clever, and very hard to put into words (hence the ballet?). The music on paper too, sounded dodgy “a fusion of classical and electronic sound”. Weird weird weird? However, it was beautifully scored and the sound which filled that whole theatre was like nothing I had ever heard before.

    The Italian dancer Alessandra Ferri at 52 is a phenomenon; very expressive and somehow her maturity was needed to pull off the role. She is beautiful, super flexible and totally convincing. History may have been created last night in the world of Dance and it is so good that this has been achieved in the UK. There were roles for most of the ROH prestigious names and though it was a new style for all of them, they succeeded in stepping up to performances which will be the envy of the rest of the ballet world (maybe even wider in the arts?). Osipova was outstanding, so was Ed Watson, Federico Bonelli, Steven McRae, Avis, Stix Brunell and Frankie Hayward. It is unfair to pick out any individual .... I was mesmerised by Lamb, Hamilton and Eric Underwood too.

    Wayne McGregor deserves all the accolade, applause and congratulations which are offered to him this morning. If last night’s ROH audience is anything to judge the temperature by, he is in for a red letter day. He is a quiet, brilliant man who looked totally abashed on opening night as the upstanding audience howled their appreciation as they insisted he take a bow along with the other artists.

    If there is a word of caution, it may be from the stalwarts who may mutter darkly about “Cirque du Soleil” tricks. I hope not; they should look at the whole concept and the ideas contained there, rather than looking at individual steps or moves but let’s see what they pick on.

    There, I am committed to paper. If the critics slam it, I don’t care. Last night was worth every penny, and I am returning next week to see it all over again. Bravo.

    • Nick Byrne responded on 12 May 2015 at 4:36pm

      I so agree with you - am so disappointed in the Telegraph's review, and as for the FT when it comes out...I'm already cringing in both fear and anger. However the Guardian and Indy got it - totally!

    • ML responded on 12 May 2015 at 11:18pm

      I agree with you, LabLady - Wayne is indeed a genius!

  7. francois responded on 12 May 2015 at 5:10pm Reply

    I can't describe the intensity of emotion that stemmed from Act III (The Waves), it has been one of the most moving, troubling, iressistible experience in contemporary dance at ROH since many years. The second act is uninspired and forgettable and,I think, a total mistake of the true sense of V.Woolf's Orlando, but the first act (I now, I then) is almost at the same level of The Waves: a great, subtle, dense, complex, moving piece.
    Cast of all three acts is absolutely outstanding: Alessandra Ferri haunts the stage with a magnetic presence and an amazing technique for a 52-y old dancer! Federico Bonelli is, once again this season, performing like one of the best dancer in the World, with such a natural and irresistible technique, a wonderful partnership with Ferri and a fantastic dramatic engagement, chiefly in Act III. Watson, Lamb, Osipova, McRae and all other dancers are superb, as well as the corps de ballet. A night to remember as a golden milestone in the last decade of performances at the Royal Ballet.

  8. Wendy Sargent responded on 12 May 2015 at 5:23pm Reply

    A gripping performance from start to finish, I can hardly wait to see it again on Thursday. I agree with the above comment that the reaction of the audience said it all, never mind the critics.

    Bravo indeed!

  9. BH responded on 12 May 2015 at 9:50pm Reply

    'Woolf Works' is not a full length piece but three unconnected works bookended with the 'voice of Woolf. It's publicity says "Inspired by Virginia Woolf..." That is the get-out clause.
    'Mrs Dalloway' I found a little tedious confounded by the bland music accompanying it. The story is simple, the private thoughts and feelings are everything, and it was brave to attempt this in dance.
    The novel 'Orlando', is positively dripping with magical, fantastical descriptions and variety, The piece was a missed opportunity, I could barely sense the flavour of Woolf here either.
    The final piece, 'The Waves', began with a reading of Woolf's last letter (beautifully read) and dance following with a nod to the book and then to Woolf's drowning. Anyone who has seen the small shallow river at Rodmell may think this piece affected, with its water-nymphs and grand gestures; and not a little disrespectful, even if meant as an elegy.
    Unfortunately one says goodbye to her without really meeting her. Take away the bookends and what do you have? Some excellent dancing as consolation.

  10. alex responded on 13 May 2015 at 4:40pm Reply

    ROH/RB photo team: can we have some photos of the other cast too please. Why only photos of the first night cast? The other cast has equally impressive dancers!

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 13 May 2015 at 5:05pm

      Hi Alex,

      Photos are taken ahead of the opening night cast, partly for use in press reviews.

      We do often commission photos of secondary/third casts, but these are usually posted after a run opens. Do keep an eye on our Flickr feed or the production/'people' pages on this site for new photos should they become available.


      ROH Content Producer

  11. Miranda Morad responded on 13 May 2015 at 11:43pm Reply

    Well done MG, you nailed it. Great stuff

  12. Alison Brown responded on 14 May 2015 at 5:51pm Reply

    I agree with others who say to ignore the critics. I and much of the audience were astounded at the creativity of ballet. The music was mesmerising and changes from digital to orchestral was seamless. The choreography - what can I say? Where do McGregor's ideas come from? This was definitely one of - if not the best - ballet experience I've had. Ferri, of course, was outstanding but what moved me most was Edward Watson's stricken soldier from Mrs Dalloway. Not even the end of Romeo and Juliet matched up to such tragedy emerging from one solo. Please bring it back quickly. I need a second viewing. Any chance of the music coming out on CD? Thank you to all involved. I still have tears from last night's performance.

  13. Greg Sturges responded on 15 May 2015 at 2:46am Reply

    Just got back from seeing performance on Thursday. A new masterpiece? too early to say, but i was so moved, especially by third part. I do hope this is programmed again soon so it can find its place in the regular rep of the royal ballet. I was so blown away by the evening i fear i will not sleep tonight! agree with above re CD of the music.

  14. Nick Byrne responded on 15 May 2015 at 3:14am Reply

    I am so glad the audience reaction has been so great and that all but two reviews so far have been positive. WW has proved to be an amazing experience. One idea - I too would love to see it brought back ASAP. And I'd also like to see it in another venue. The abandoned factory may be a theatrical cliche but this and other works would be great to see outside of the ROH itself. Other ballets as disparate as Different Drummer, Elite Syncopations, Les Sylphides even would work. If the RB could field three casts WW could run on its own almost outside of the season. It's an extraordinary exceptional piece that could be handled differently.

  15. Elisa Kay Sparks responded on 15 May 2015 at 11:16am Reply

    As a Woolf scholar, one is always worried abt adaptations, but this was sensitive, intelligent, and everywhere informed by a rich and complex understanding of Woolf's life and work -- will give new dimension/ movement/ rhythm to my readings of Woolf.

  16. F Howard responded on 15 May 2015 at 6:24pm Reply

    I did not admire Woolf Works. I thought some of the choreography for two or three dancers was lovely and moving but I found the larger tableaux messy and confusing. I was not moved overall. If there had not been the amazing laser lighting and other distractions I would have been bored at times.

  17. sarah langfield responded on 15 May 2015 at 8:43pm Reply

    Second cast, second act really stunning. Each dancer bringing it to life, wonderful.

  18. Daniel responded on 16 May 2015 at 9:07pm Reply

    This was my first journey into ballet. Went because I am a huge fan of Max Richter 's work. I did not expect this. I was absolutely immersed in music, body movement and lighting.

    The first and the second act was absolutely beautiful. Very pretty contrast.

    Third act just had me in tears. I was in absolute fear and joy. It was the most usual experience I have ever felt emotionally. Took me a while to function properly.

  19. Maxine responded on 21 May 2015 at 12:25am Reply

    The most amazing performance, breathless in parts, heart racing and tears of joy at the depth of passion and grace so beautifully danced before mine eyes!
    Music brilliant and even the modern mixed in with the classical was fabulous.
    Just fantastic!

  20. Just when the business of life was beginning to defeat me Woolf Works comes along and once more the arts save my soul.

    One of the highlights of my extremely active theatre going life of the last 40 years.

    Thank you EVERYONE involved.

  21. Martin responded on 22 May 2015 at 2:45pm Reply

    Last night I was mesmerized from start to finish with this outstanding production. If i was giving out Olivier awards they would be, Bonelli and Ferri, and for the sound and lighting design, choroegraphy, costumes and of course to Max Richter. There was a buzz to the ROH last night that I haven't felt before and I hope that you bring this production back for another season. Some critics didn't like it I know, but the audience did and it was sold out. The word of mouth for this production is great - if you had more performances after next Tuesday, no doubt they would be full too. I have not seen anything as good as this at the ROH and I usually only attend the classic ballets, so you have certainly won me over (and no doubt many others). Amazing, thank you ROH for being brave and giving us a real treat.

  22. Paula Vedoveli responded on 22 May 2015 at 6:17pm Reply

    Wonderful! It has set a new standard for modern ballet.
    I was so touched by the dancers' and the orchestra' interpretation that I cried over most of the first act. So powerfully emotional. I believe it conveys the ambiguities and anxieties of a forward-thinking woman living in the 1920s.
    The second act is more about movement and power. Some changes might be welcome. It takes a lot of the dancers to make it work and I was not totally convinced by the music, especially the techno sounds. It was also a little bit too loud, which caused some discomfort in the Amphitheater.
    Act 3 was again majestic, focusing at the same time on fluidity and on the chaos-like nature of waves breaking on the beach. All about human choices and non-choices.
    I was very happy I was there to experiment such an artistic accomplishment. Thank you!

  23. Nick Byrne responded on 23 May 2015 at 10:12am Reply

    I agree - this production is so special it could be treasured differently. As I said previously it could run for a three or four week season in a separate theatre outside of or parallel to the normal season. RB on tour but in London. I remember in the past the RO taking over CG and the RB taking up location elsewhere so it could be done. The RB has a cultural and commercial hit - sorry to sound so crude - it should be maximised.

  24. Nick Byrne responded on 23 May 2015 at 10:13am Reply

    LOL - I wrote "treasured" when I meant "treated" (spellcheck!) - but actually both work!

  25. Stuart Dixon responded on 23 May 2015 at 4:22pm Reply

    Second time around and even better this time. What a production, fantastic. First and Third parts utterly heartbreaking. Wonderful music,lighting.choreography and the dancing was out of this world. More please, cinema next time and I suppose a DVD is out of the question.

  26. Marion responded on 24 May 2015 at 9:08am Reply

    My two favourite McGregor ballets are Infra and Woolf Works, both with music by Richter. There is something in this artistic pairing that works like magic for me. I wish I could see the show again.

  27. Angela responded on 24 May 2015 at 6:40pm Reply

    I agree with Stuart,cinema would be great. It was the most amazing experience and a privilege to have seen such a wonderful cast in this extraordinarily moving and beautiful piece.I just cannot stop thinking about it
    I hope all those involved read these comments so they can understand how we feel.

  28. Nick B responded on 27 May 2015 at 12:35pm Reply

    Missed it!
    Any chance of Woolf Works being staged some time next year?

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 27 May 2015 at 12:50pm

      Hi Nick,

      There are no performances scheduled at present we're afraid.


      ROH Content Producer

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