Shetland pony shares stage with principal dancers in La Fille Mal Gardee

Stars of La Fille Mal Gardee – Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews
Stars of La Fille Mal Gardee – Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews

DESCRIBED as "the funniest, sunniest English ballet masterpiece", the curtain comes up on La Fille Mal Gardee (The Wayward Daughter) at Belfast's Grand Opera House next week.

Birmingham Royal Ballet has revived Frederick Ashton's well-loved tale of an ambitious mother, her resourceful daughter and a handsome farmer next door – not, to mention, the real star of the piece, a super-cute Shetland pony.

First soloist with Birmingham Royal Ballet and nominee for ‘Best Classical Performance’ in last year's National Dance Awards, Brandon Lawrence, who dances the role of Colas, the good looking young farmhand, says that despite the production's levity, the dance steps are grounded in serious technique.

"My biggest challenge when performing in La Fille Mal Gardee is securing all the technical steps while still telling the story and keeping it light-hearted," says Lawrence, who whose character laughs and jokes his way into co-star, Lise’s (Delia Mathews) heart – much to the chagrin of her mother, 'Widow Simone'.

"The highlight, for me, is the interaction with Lise, as I get to bring a real emotional element to the role," adds Lawrence, who recently made a star turn on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, giving presenters Simon Rimmer and Tim Lovejoy an impropmtu ballet masterclass.

Generally, though, the emphasis in La Fille Mal Gardee is on light and hearty, the comic element secured through the relationship between Lise and her mother who wants her wayward daughter to cast her eyes a little higher in the marriage stakes – from farmer Colas to Alain, a rich landowner’s son.

Heels are dug in (as far as you can dig heels in ballet) and a hilarious mother-daughter battle ensues.

For New Zealand-born Mathews, also principal dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet, her role as Lise is one she embraces with mischievous enthusiasm.

"Lise who is a bit cheeky, a bit naughty, is really fun to play," says the award-winning dancer. "It’s a really light-hearted, fun ballet for the whole family to enjoy, which is a bit different from the usual storylines. We have a great time playing these roles and I think the audience can feel that."

For ballet fans, there is a free pre-performance talk on Friday November 9, starting at 6.30pm, while to see how dancers prepare for a busy day of rehearsal and performance, a company class on stage has been organised for Saturday November 10, starting at 11.45am (cost £10). Booking details for talk, class and ballet performances during the four-day run, see goh.co.uk