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Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act - Playground Theatre

 Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE Playground Theatre’s Spring Season opens with Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act. Starring former ballerina Naomi Sorkin, it runs from January 23 to February 15, 2020.

From Paris to Palestine, from dancing in the Ballet Russes to commissioning Ravel’s Boléro, Ida Rubinstein’s career as a dancer and impresario saw her working with artists such as Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Debussy. But despite her varied career and her fame in her own time, her name is all but forgotten whilst her contemporaries live on in memory.

Now Naomi Sorkin, an actor and former ballerina recounts the Russian heiress’ dramatic life: her scandalous Salomé that led her embarrassed family to commit her to an asylum, her rise to the heights of fame in Paris, her bisexual love affairs, the assassination of her long-time lover Lord Moyne, and her work as a nurse in both World Wars.

Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act combines text, movement, music, projections and film to evoke a long-gone era of theatrical extravagance.

Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act, which has a book by Christian Holder, is directed and choreographed by Christian Holder (choreography includes American Ballet Theatre and Joffrey Ballet), and designed by multiple BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning David Roger, with lighting by Charlie Morgan Jones and costume and set textiles by Charles and Patricia Lester.

The cast also includes Marco Gambino (as D’Annunzio), Adam Clayton Smith (Edward Clement), Darren Berry (Ravel) and Kathryn Worth (Romaine Brooks/Soretto).

Naomi Sorkin said: “It was first suggested that I play Ida Rubinstein by William Como, the founder and editor of American Dance Magazine, who loved my work and had just researched an article about her. He related to me that her story had an incredible life trajectory and said that I even resembled her in profile, plus the fact that I am also of Russian Jewish heritage myself.

“I think what has kept me fascinated is the fact that she was a self-actualized woman at a time when women traditionally had no power whatsoever, let alone the strength of character to defy every obstacle confronting her, in order to pursue and fulfil her belief in the power and beauty of art.”

Ida Rubinstein was a Russian dancer, actor, art patron and icon of the Belle Époque era. Born into one of Russia’s wealthiest families in the late 1800’s, she rose to the heights of fame as a star of Diaghelev’s Ballet Russes, dancing opposite Nijinsky in both Cleopatre and Sheherezade. She formed her own company, one of the very few women to do so at the time, and commissioned several lavish productions, many choreographed by Nijinska.

She later converted from Judaism to Catholicism, and during the two World Wars she nursed wounded French soldiers. She had a passionate affair with the artist Romaine Brooks, and her long term lover and supporter, Walter Edward Guinness (later Lord Moyne), was assassinated in 1944. After the war, she withdrew completely and died forgotten.

Naomi Sorkin was one of America’s leading classical and dramatic dancers, joining the American Ballet Theatre at the age of 17 and rising to become a principal. She worked with the great choreographers of the time, including Massine, Anthony Tudor, Jerome Robbins and Agnes De Mille. She previously played Ida in a short film Madame Ida which was shown at the V&A, London Film Festival, Paris, Capri and St Petersburg.

Her career parallels with Ida Rubenstein’s in many ways: she became a freelance artist at a time when it was highly unusual to do so, and began to act. Amongst many roles created for her were Cleopatra, and Nastyasia Filippovna in The Idiot, a role created for her by award-winning Polish director Henryk Baranowski. She also danced Sheherezade for a Nijinski gala at the London Palladium.

Sorkin was a guest artist with many contemporary and ballet companies across the US before guesting with the Lindsay Kemp company and William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt.

Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act is suitable for ages 12+.

Tickets: £22, £18 concessions, 10 £10 tickets per show. To book, call the box office on 020 8960 0110 or visit theplaygroundtheatre.london/.

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday matinees on February 1, 8 and 15 at 2.30pm.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes (including interval).

Read more about The Playground Theatre’s Spring 2020 Season.