SPARTACUS VIEWING GUIDE

Posted on 28 July 2020 By Rose Mulready

Come join the revolution! Tonight we're going to ancient Rome to watch an age-old (yet perenially relevant) tale of uprising against cruel oppressors. Gladitorial clashes, decadent bath houses, love that flowers in the midst of calamity - Lucas Jervies' Spartacus has it all. Before you slip into your toga, run your eye over this viewing guide to get insights into the making of our latest version, learn more about the leading dancers and sneak into our atelier to see the costumes being created. 

Spartacus is brought to you free by our Production Partner La Trobe University. 

WHICH VERSION IS THIS?

In 2018, we unveiled this epic new production by Lucas Jervies, commissioned by David McAllister and showcasing the depth of talent in the ranks of our male dancers. Jervies, a former dancer with our company turned contemporary choreographer and NIDA-trained director, researched slavery in our own time, submerged himself in the Khachaturian score and worked with a fight director, Nigel Poulton, to develop a gritty, explosive style.

Fun fact: As a young dancer, Jervies had a bit part in the 2002 production of Spartacus, carrying a spear. Watching Robert Curran and Olivia Bell as Spartacus and Flavia, he "fell in love with their relationship", and from then on wondered how he would tell their story.

Watch out for: The bath house scene, in with Crassus and his friends exult in their power and luxury; in rows of steaming baths, the nobles perform synchronised arm movements that resemble the corps in Swan Lake

Deep dive: Watch the gladiators working with Poulton as Jervies talks about developing a movement vocabulary to suit Spartacus

Bonus Spartacus: To complement our showing of Jervies' Spartacus, we've turned back time to revisit our 1990 production of László Seregi's Spartacus, starring Steven Heathcote in one of his signature roles and Nicole Rhodes as Flavia. It's Spartacus ... mano a mano! 

Kevin Jackson and Robyn Hendricks. Photography Jeff Busby

Who dances the lead roles?

If you saw Principal Artist Kevin Jackson dancing the polished Prince in The Sleeping Beauty, which kicked off our At Home with Ballet TV season, you're in for a change of pace. Jackson worked tirelessly to hone his physique into that of the Thracian warrior turned gladiator, and gives an impassioned performance, powerful in all senses of the word. His Flavia is Robyn Hendricks, whose long pure lines and wellsprings of deep emotion make her as much a cynosure for the audience as she is for the hero. 

Watch out for: The third act pas de deux, where Spartacus and Flavia, in a moment of peace before the final fateful battle with the forces of Rome, exult in their love. 

Fun fact: Jackson wasn't the only dancer to bulk up for Spartacus. All the male dancers cast as gladiators in the ballet embarked on a regime specially designed by our Artistic Health team to quickly and safely 'pump up' their frames.  

Deep dive: Kevin Jackson on the grit and focus you need to be a dancer.

Photography Daniel Boud / Kate Longley

Who composed the music?

Aram Khachaturian wrote Spartacus in 1954, and it won him the Lenin prize that year - a startling turnaround for a composer who had been denounced by Stalin's regime just six years before. With its broad range of orchestral colours, its brash marches and sensual dances and emotional swells, it has the feel of the music for a de Mille historical epic, and conjures up the story and the feelings of its characters with cinematic clarity. 

Listen out for: The use of the saxophone - highly unusual for orchestral compositions in the 1950s, and still unusual today. 

Fun Fact: The adagio that is used for Act III pas de deux has had a rich and varied life in popular culture: it was the theme song for the popular British drama The Onedin Line, appeared in TV ads and the Cohen Brothers film The Hudsucker Proxy, and is much beloved of figure skaters. 

Deep dive: "There are moments in Spartacus where you almost feel like you’re at a Weimar-era Berlin burlesque show. In other places, you feel like you’re in a 1960s Bond film ..." Music Director and Chief Conductor Nicolette Fraillon talks about the many moods of Khachaturian's score. 

Photography Kate Longley

WHO DESIGNED THE SETS AND COSTUMES?

Jéröme Kaplan, who also designed our productions of Cinderella and Sylvia, put together a Spartacus of surprising lushness: framed in stark, Brutalist sets and with all the leather and steel you'd expect of the gladiatorial ring, but also blooming with soft chiffon draperies, rich metallic threads and bared flesh. 

Watch out for: The articulated arm tipped with metal, resembling a scorpion's tail, worn in the ring by the gladiator Scorpius. 

Fun fact: Kaplan and Jervies found inspiration for the ballet's look in the Fellini film Satyricon.

Deep dive: Come into the costume atelier to see Kaplan and our team of artisans at work on the creation of the Spartacus costumes.