Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium – review round-up ★★

Ballet’s infamous bad boy returned to London with a mixed programme of work at the London Palladium late last month.

Sergei Polunin’s triple bill was resoundingly panned by the critics with some lamenting the waste of his once great talent.

A former star of London’s Royal Ballet, he was the youngest ever dancer to become a Principal at the age of twenty, but quit after two years citing over-work and poor pay. Polunin caused further controversy recently, alienating many fans and colleagues with a string of homophobic posts on social media and admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sergei Polunin – a mixed programme ran from 28 May 2019 until 1 June 2019 at the London Palladium.

Read the round-up of reviews for Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium from theatre critics from the New York Times, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The daily Telegraph and more, below


Average Critics Rating

The Observer

"The bad boy of ballet’s self-absorbed mixed bill is unlikely to win over his detractors"

"It’s a cabaret of inelegant clowning, weakened by a disjointed movement style and misogynist undertones. There’s a commendable intensity to Polunin’s tortured characterisation, though his technical performance seems half-hearted, a muster of spiritless leaps and off-kilter fouettés. Kobborg is a sturdy nemesis, but the supporting ensemble of mimes look under-rehearsed, fumbling their timing as they lurch from poker-faced to fancy-free."

"As much as the public loves a redemption arc, it’s hard to imagine Polunin achieving this with such a naked lack of self-awareness."

Sara Veale, The Observer
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The Guardian

"Storm, stress and sweet torment

"Ballet and B-movies collide as Sergei Polunin revives Russian villain Rasputin, suffers with Nijinsky, and tackles toxic masculinity with a pineapple.

A world away from the norms of British ballet, the B-movie, scenery-chomping style is rollickingly enjoyable, though perhaps more as failed seriousness than intended effect."

Sanjoy Roy, The Guardian
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The Times

"Sergei Polunin stumbles like a drunkard through insipid and ludicrous choreography, over-emoting to compensate for his loss of dignity as an artist"

"He has celebrity, he has notoriety, he has a huge internet fanbase. What Sergei Polunin doesn’t have is any decent choreography to dance. His latest self-curated production, two years after the last dispiriting one in London, is a display of sub-standard material that does nothing to justify the evening as anything more than a feeble vanity project for the Ukrainian star."

Debra Craine, The Times
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The New York Times

"A tepid hour of emoting and flailing"

"Rasputin,” a tepid hour of emoting and flailing (padded out with an intermission) that must have left even Mr. Polunin’s keenest supporters feeling something was missing. In fact, many things were missing: choreography, intelligence, taste and technique among them."

"But the choreography for Mr. Polunin is all smoke and mirrors; flailing arms and wild jumps with built-in falls that disguise his lack of technical control. Ms. Oishi displays no ability to create memorable encounters or create movement that delineates character, despite giving Mr. Kobborg an odd puppetlike jerkiness and suggesting that Yusupov enjoys cross-dressing. (The implication is that there is a homoerotic component to Yosupov’s relationship with Rasputin is an odd counterpart to Mr. Polunin’s Instagram musings."

"Mr. Polunin still has charisma and stage presence. He still seems to have an audience. But the narrow window he still has to save his technique, talent and reputation has almost closed."

Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times
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The Independent

"None of the splashiness of Polunin’s first ventures"

"This mixed bill is a stripped back, underpowered affair, with nods to circus clowns and the dancer Nijinsky, but none of the splashiness of Polunin’s first ventures into his own productions."

Zoë Anderson, The Independent
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The Financial Times

"Alarming portrait of a talent in meltdown"

"The Ukrainian star’s recent projects have been a painful reminder that performers are not always the best judge of repertoire, and even devoted admirers have begun to baulk at watching the gradual erosion of a glorious talent in unworthy material."

Louise Levene, The Financial Times
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The Stage

"Obnoxious, tedious and uncomfortable - the paying public shouldn’t be prey to him."

"Strap yourself in for some hollow sentiment and hubris – ballet’s enfant terrible Sergei Polunin is back in town. The Ukrainian dancer’s most recent egregious antics include homophobic, misogynist and fat-phobic Instagram rants that got him fired from a guest spot at the Paris Opera Ballet. Plus a paean to Putin."

"Still, this latest venture at the Palladium proves that the stream of bankrolling and indulgence that keeps Polunin afloat hasn’t yet run dry."

Anna Winter, The Stage
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The Sunday Times

"A muddle of ideas"

"One out of three isn’t bad, but the rest of the ballet star’s triple bill is perplexing"

"Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium is the catchy title of the Ukrainian-Russian star’s latest self-produced venture, and the cover of the programme proclaims that “ballet is ready to evolve and integrate into mass culture”. I take it that this is Polunin’s mission statement, but it’s both vacuous and grandiose. His opening triple bill was a muddle of ideas, with a linking theme of mental instability."

David Dougill, The Sunday Times
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👤 📅1 June 2019
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📷 Main photo: Sergei Polunin in Fraudulent Smile, credit Alexey Kerkis

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