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This programme, featuring a world premiere by William Forsythe, starts at Sadler's Wells this evening.  I'm not going to be able to get away from work, but would love to get feedback from anyone else who's going.

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I’m going tomorrow afternoon- I’ll try to post some thoughts when I get home!

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Posted (edited)

It was a typical Triple Bill (except we were treated to four pieces). As with all Triple Bills, some of us will have enjoyed one particular piece more than another. Just a matter of how we see it and the mood we are in watching it.

 

All four pieces beautifully danced by a great cast and each rapturously received by a packed and enthusiastic audience, particularly Forsythe's 'Playlist'; classical ballet danced by an all male corps to  heavy house hip hop (I may be a little out of date with my ability to discern modern music styles) at the end.

 

My own favourite was Aszure Barton's 'Fantastic Beings', crisply danced by a very well drilled company and showing to advantage the strengths of the ENB. I would very happily watch this again.

Edited by RobR
Typo

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Posted (edited)

No time to write a detailed review but agree with Rob R that the ENB Company looked in very good strength.  If there is discord it was not evident in the harmonious thrust of their concerted team work.  Agree too that the pared down/revamped Fantastic Beings is now a thing of joy.  Standout stellar work therein was evidenced by the effervescent Daniel McCormick - a great asset no question as he also unquestionably was in Forsythe's 'malestrom' of a toying balletic delight, PLAYLIST (TRACK 1,2) [and, hey, love the title] alongside the ever fascinating Hernandez, Takahashi and Saruhashi.  All glistened in the Barton.  In Forsythe's Approximate Sonata 2016 it was the latter half that really stood out for me - in this clever conversation on the advance of the PPD.  So lovely to see Dronina and Hernandez further extol the glory of their DNB harmonies - and Precious Adams was ... well, ... [much as you would expect] precious in the arms of Robison.  This man is a star - there is no question of that ... in the 4th Sonata ... much as he miraculously was in Playlist.  His radiance I suspect can only really be witnessed from the skies; Certainly I held my breath in amazement during his Coda special in Track 2.  His gifts are ones certainly to be cherished and Rojo doesn't have to worry about the loss of the wonderful Corrales.  His stunning equal (albeit of a different hue of course) has already majestically rolled up on the ENB shore.  As to The Cage; this was - by some distance - not the strongest rendering of the Robbins I've seen - and I had seen a goodly many overseen by the master choreographer himself.  Who could ever forget the unique Whelan Novice's bite.  This needed more sting somehow.  Still the ENB ladies on the whole did the '#MeTOO' generation proud - and Cao as the Queen (in what I once heard the choreographer himself refer to as 'the wilis revenge!') even more so.  I am confident the Robbins will sharpen as the run progresses.  

 

Throughout you could see the 20th Century influence of Robbins (in this the year of his own centenary) and most markedly the 21st hallmark (much as Forsythe referenced in a recent interview) of Peck.  The influence of the latter was certainly germane in both the Barton and new Forsythe.  You could hear definite echos of Peck's voice in their writing.  (And how WONDERFUL to have Forsythe back in the arms of the balletic idiom he had abandoned for so long.  Would that the POB academy for balletic choreographers he was to head went the way of all sad things with Millipied's departure.  Everyone's loss I fear.)  Sadly references to so much of the Robbins rep and realistically, ALL of the now burgeoning Peck balletic canon - pieces of which are now housed in the vast majority of the world's major ballet companies - sadly, won't be evident to any British balletomanes who haven't really had the good fortune to travel.  I must confess I let out a private sigh when Diana White (a former NYCB soloist) came out to take a bow for having set The Cage.  She was one of those generations of NYCB dancers entirely lost to British audiences.  I only reference that given the fact that the same, say, would not have been true of her UK equals in either LFB/ENB or the RB in, say, New York during equivalent periods - given that was the locale in which for some time I, myself, saw them.  Still how lucky we are that TODAY we have these artists (Barton, Forsythe) who are striving to further dance through an ongoing push of the balletic vocabulary.  For that and much more I'm sure many will want to sing their praise and MOST CERTAINLY bless Ms. Rojo for this propulsion on behalf of us all.   I can't wait to again taste Broken Wings and most expectantly more Quagebeur!!!  Brindamos por ti!!!   

 

Edited by Bruce Wall

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Oh, what was the approximate running time, please?

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7 minutes ago, alison said:

Oh, what was the approximate running time, please?

 

As reported on the cast sheet 2 hours and 11 minutes - not to put too fine a point on it.  

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Thanks, Bruce.  Did you notice if it bore any resemblance to reality? :)

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5 hours ago, alison said:

Thanks, Bruce.  Did you notice if it bore any resemblance to reality? :)

 

Fairly close, yes.  It did slightly over-run last night - but then it was the opening and all that there has to be contended with. 

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I went to the full stage rehearsal earlier this week.  The previous time I saw Fantastic Beings, I found it rather flabby and ill-lit; this time the whole piece felt tighter, pacier, better lit and generally really gripping - probably my favourite piece of the night. The young woman next to me found it so amusing that she had to keep up a non-whispered commentary to her companion all the way through (though he was distracted by his Apple watch lighting up with messages every few minutes).   I found Sonata the least involving of the evening, though it was a delight to see Alina Cojocaru again for the first time in an age.  The Cage was new to me and is certainly a piece I'd like to get more familiar with. It was well received, indeed aforesaid neighbours spilt their wine all over the floor in their enthusiasm.  The high point for the audience at large was Playlist, which was applauded furiously.  I didn't enjoy Track 1, partly for the lighting and partly the jazz funk lift music, but Track 2 was in a different league  - the dancers brought a huge display of energy and virtuosity to the stage, and a big grin to my face. 

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Must agree with Bruce. Playlist was my evening highlight. Like "Dance at the Gym" for the "Take Me To Church" generation. (Well, with far less adversarial aggression!) All were unified in batterie and beats and fleet footwork. All upbeat, sexy, grooving swaggering fun, a bit camp in places but didn't suffer for it! The crow were cheering and whooping after certain "moves" like at a BB/Dance battle. I loved Robison in the middle of a semicircle of strutting guys doing tour after beautiful tour. THAT raised a cheer. I preferred the second number of the two, the first felt at one place a bit like "get fit with ballet DVD". "Beings" and "Cage" were not what I had gone for, but were still fun to watch. Especially of note was how the "shaggy costumes"moved in Beings. I must single out Dronina in her "Sonata" truly beautiful. Her eyes speak volumes. How different to her turn that same night in "Cage" as the Novice! In summary, New Forsythe was worth the admission price alone.

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My sketchy thoughts from this afternoon - I enjoyed all four pieces and thought they complemented each other well. Fantastic Beings was absorbing and intriguing- sinewy dancing, sometimes playful, sometimes threatening, sometimes beautiful. The score was stirring and played with great vigour by the orchestra. I was fascinated by Approximate Sonata and its 5 different pdd, sometimes disjointed and almost deconstructed, yet it felt very intimate somehow, and again there was an element of playfulness. The Cage was thrilling: the almost impossible fierceness of the female creatures was a sight to behold, and Stravinsky’s score was so vivid and urgent. Finally, I loved LOVED Playlist (Track one, two). Virtuoso dancing and so joyful and euphoric - this must be the first time I’ve been to the ballet and wanted to stand up and join in! Overall I felt that ENB look strong,unified and at the top of their game.  I envy anyone who is yet to see Voices of America!

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I'm afraid that I didn't enjoy this bill much. I thought that Fantastic Beings was much better than 2 years ago - still too long, but visually striking and beautifully danced, so by far the most enjoyable work from my point of view. I found Approximate Sonata very tedious and unilluminating - lots of extensions and stretches from the couples, but conveying (to me) nothing, either through the choreography or the music. And I thought that the black backdrop going up and down periodically and revealing the word 'YES' was so dated and pretentious. However the work did introduce me to Sarah Kundi in the 4th Sonata - I haven't (knowingly) seen her dance before and she was terrific, infusing the steps with her own style and wit.

 

I was pleased to finally see The Cage - I found it very powerful and original and I loved the music, but it was also (inevitably) very unpleasant. I also couldn't help thinking that (even though they're supposed to be insects) if the genders of the participants were reversed, there would - rightly or wrongly - currently be vocal protests about the theme. Katja Khaniukova and Fabian Reimair were tremendous as the Novice and the Man. Playlist (Track 1, 2) just washed over me - it seemed to be nothing more than a few standard elements of ballet vocabulary performed extremely well, often in unison or small groups, by a technically talented group of men to reasonably engaging music. But at least it was an upbeat ending to the afternoon.

 

ENB do look to be in great form - everything was danced with such skill and commitment. But I wouldn't choose to see any of the works again.

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I was at the reharsal, so here are some photos:

 


41433060441_446ee4bcf7_z.jpg
Fantastic Beings(Aszure Barton): Erina Takahashi, Isaac Hernandez
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

26561923417_608799ed5b_z.jpg
Approximate Sonata 2016 (William Forsythe): Joseph Caley, Alina Cojocaru
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

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The Cage (Jerome Robins): Jurgita Dronina, Begona Cao
©  Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

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Playlist (Track 1, 2)(Forsythe): Daniel McCormick
©  Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

 

 

See more... 

Set from DanceTabs: ENB - Voices of America
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr
 

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From all the clips posted on Facebook last night, it appears an extremely energetic William Forsythe joined in the 'dance-off' during the curtain calls for "Playlist" at the Friday evening performance!  Hoping for but not expecting a repeat performance when I see it on Monday.

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, Irmgard said:

From all the clips posted on Facebook last night, it appears an extremely energetic William Forsythe joined in the 'dance-off' during the curtain calls for "Playlist" at the Friday evening performance!  Hoping for but not expecting a repeat performance when I see it on Monday.

Yes, it looked incredible! The audience were going wild for it. This is what live dance should be about.

Edited by amos73
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Posted (edited)

I enjoyed this quad bill.

 

Fantastic Beings was shorter and better lit than last time (IIRC) and I felt that it benefited from being on first.  I think that I might like Approximate Sonata better when I know it better. However, recalling that Forsythe originally choreographed at least one of the pdd to music from Swan Lake, I sat there wishing he had stuck with that rather than the 'noises' from Willens' specially composed piece.Oooh. The Cage - smiled at the turning of the tables and the music but maybe someone will voice understandable concerns about women's treatment of the two male prey in this ballet? Wish that the solo violinist had a taken a bow alongside the dancers. Playlist (Part 1, 2) was a terrific exhibitionist romp and sent everyone home on a high. I suppose that one isn't meant to look for anything more than feeling the joy of exhuberant dance and marvelling at the technical ability and stamina of the dancers? But maybe someone on here knows different?

 

Stand out performers for me (at the Friday matinee) were Alice Bellini. Francesca Velicu and Katja Kaniukova in Fantastic Beings; Rina Kanehara in Approximate Sonata; Katja Kaniukova (again) in The Cage; and Aaron Robison, Ken Saruhashi, Erik Woolhouse and Daniel McCormick in Playlist (Part 1, 2). At the end of the last piece, the 12 men show us their backs (which have their names on their T-shirts) - a nice touch but they don't stand still for long enough for the audience to take that in. People near to me were trying to make a phrase out of the words!

 

 

Edited by capybara
additional two sentences at the end

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Inspired dancing, technical expertise, playful, dramatic - this program has it all. I’ve seen 2 casts... Playlist just rocks - all standouts and I would love to see Barry D do more.  The Cage - Katya K was outstanding... the corps?  Frightening!  I’m still trying to follow Fantastic Beings.. Erina T and Isaac H were terrific as was Begoña C. In the  other cast Junor S and Tiffany H and I really like the smaller groups in this piece but not the larger groups. 

Approxinate Sonata 2016 looks quite different between couples  Alina C and Joe C - fun and expressive  Tiffany H and Janes S powerful and dynamic, Aaron R - amazing. In the second cast - wow - Rina K and Erina T with Junor S. 

This is quite a showing for ENB - hopefully I can see it one more time. 

 

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Ironic, isn't it?  Knowing that ENB were in town, I deliberately picked tonight to go to Manon because you know Sadler's Wells never does Monday performances, does it, so I wouldn't be missing out on an ENB performance, and what do I find???  And they had a Friday matinee last week so I thought, good, I could manage next Friday's, only to find that this week it's on Thursday and clashes with another Manon :(

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When are you here, Petunia?   (And are you coming back for the June Swan Lake/BRB/ENB balletfest? :) )

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I'm leaving tomorrow morning for London - I have ENB tomorrow evening, the RB Triple on Wednesday, two Manons on Thursday and Friday I'll be at the Barbican! Going back on Saturday.

Don't know yet about June.

 

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I went last night, and although not a fan of modern ballet came away having thoroughly enjoyed myself, as the Quadruple Bill was more enjoyable for me than the recent Bernstein triple bill at the ROH. I found that the 4th piece (PLAYLIST) was the best piece of modern ballet I have ever seen - it was stunning and very uplifting.

 

One of the reasons I went, was to see Alina Cojocaru for the first time since her amazing Giselle at the ENO last year, but she was only on briefly. However, it was my first viewing of Isaac Hernandez - I think he was the standout dancer yesterday, and was fantastic.

 

 

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Apart from “The Cage”, this is one of those programmes in which it appears that every expense was spared when it comes to costumes.  “Fantastic Beings” uses the unisex unitard so beloved of contemporary dance in the late 1970s and the two Forsythe pieces are performed in not very imaginative variations on practice clothes.

 

In 2016, “Fantastic Beings” suffered from following the far more memorable and engaging “Broken Wings”.  This time it opens the programme but I still failed to take much pleasure in most of its choreography, despite being danced with great enthusiasm and commitment by all concerned.  The lighting appears slightly less lugubrious than previously but still obscured faces and the subtle detail I am told is on the costumes.  At times it also did the choreography no favours.  At the first performance I saw on Monday evening, the highlight for me was the sensual, elegant dancing of Begona Cao and Junor Souza in a pas de deux that promised much but was cut short far too soon.  This seems to be a feature of the piece.  Barton gives us ‘dance bites’, many of which initially intrigue, then fails to develop them so that they are almost instantly forgettable.  An exception was the quirky role danced cheekily and with great humour by Ken Saruhashi who appears at various times during the piece.  It was also good to see Crystal Costa, back to full dance strength, effortlessly owning the stage whenever she appeared.  The orchestra has a great time with the highly percussive score but, for me, the choreographic interest dried up at least fifteen minutes before the music finished.

 

Having attended a very entertaining masterclass by William Forsythe on “Approximate Sonata 2016”, in which he spoke eloquently about counterpoint in both music and movement, I was expecting great things but was disappointed that the ‘music’ was no more than a pulsating beat overlaid with an electronic sound.  I have to concur with Capybara in a previous post that it was a shame he did not use any of the pieces of music to which the dancers rehearsed.  A point in fact was the 2nd Sonata, danced in the masterclass to the entrée of the Act III pas de deux from “Swan Lake”, but which lost the feeling of counterpoint when danced against just the electronic sound.  However, it was very clear for me to spot Forsythe’s take on the Act II pas de deux in the 3rd Sonata, especially when danced as it was by Jurgita Dronina on Monday evening.  Her innate musicality and the expressive way she uses her body, and her feet in particular, along with the delicate head and finger movements, instantly said “Odette” to me and brought a sublime beauty to the choreography.  Similarly, on Tuesday evening, Erina Takahashi also brought a flavour of her own haunting interpretation of Odette to the piece although, as I had been told the previous evening, Forsythe gave each cast variations on the choreography so that no two interpretations would be the same.  On Tuesday evening, the 3rd Sonata took on a much more rhythmical and dynamic appearance, danced by Begona Coa and Francisco Bosch who took the risks Forsythe encouraged them to in the masterclass, and to see Cao slowly rise onto pointe and extend her long limbs was itself a masterclass in the glories of classical technique.

 

Although I would not describe “The Cage” as a masterpiece, it is certainly a masterwork by a great choreographer and, in my opinion, is what the Germans call a “gesamtkunstwerk” in which choreography, music, design and lighting all come together to create a total work of art.  Amazingly created in 1951, its overt sexuality and at times unballetic posturing must have been quite shocking for American audiences at the time.  Indeed, the extreme sway back with ribcage thrust forward while on bent knees with parallel feet used by Robbins for his female creatures predates by eleven years the same posture used by MacMillan in his “Rite of Spring”.  It is Robbins’s ability to tell a story completely through movement without any extensive programme notes to explain it which is the strength of this absorbing piece, along with the movement perfectly reflecting the dynamic and rhythm of Stravinsky’s concerto for string orchestra, elegantly played by the ENB Philharmonic.  On Monday night, Begona Cao was the imperious Queen presiding over events and, although this is a relatively small role, her body language, again those long limbs in particular, made it electrifying.  Dronina, in a chic black bob, was the Novice who we first see released from her cocoon, and her struggle to find her balance reminded me of a newborn foal struggling to its feet.  Dronina really does seem to have the ability to inhabit any character, even one as strange as this, helped greatly by her huge, expressive eyes.  Her journey from novice to fully-fledged member of the hive via her first kill, her first sexual experience shown in an initially tender pas de deux with James Streeter as the Man, to her killing and feasting on him with her fellow females was extraordinary, and all accomplished in approximately thirteen minutes!  On Tuesday evening, Isabelle Brouwers added another Queen to her repertoire and, while not yet having Cao’s authority, did admirably in controlling proceedings.  Katja Khaniukova as the Novice was almost unrecognisable in her black bob and excellent make-up and really relished creating her character through Robbins’s innovative movements.  There was a wonderful chemistry between her and Fabian Reimair in the pas de deux so that, somehow, her final snapping of his neck had a feeling of regret to it.  A word of praise for the twelve ladies who made up the rest of the hive, difficult to identify by name with their wild hair and make-up, who managed to look both savage and elegant at the same time with their stabbing movements en pointe. 

 

Lastly, Forsythe’s new piece for twelve male dancers to two pieces from his playlist (hence the title) reminded me of the period after class and before rehearsal when the dancers practice their ‘party pieces’ – jumps and turns – in almost dance-off fashion and to each other’s encouragement.  The sheer exuberance of their skillful dancing was toe-tappingly enthralling and a great way to end the evening.  My only complaint was the poor lighting which obscured their faces and their names  emblazoned on the back of their t-shirts and which made it difficult to identify some of the dancers I do not know so well or to see how much they were personally enjoying this chance to entertain us.

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I forgot to mention in my rather long post that I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning and end of 'Sonata' on Tuesday evening, as danced by Rina Kanehara and Guilherme Menezes.  They had such a rapport and the same cheeky sense of humour which made them utterly charming.  Their incisive dancing brought the rhythms much more sharply into focus, thus emphasising the counterpoint of the movements that Forsythe was so keen to portray.

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I found this to be a bit of a curate's egg programme but overall very enjoyable. Having retired not too long ago, I am still finding it quite a treat to be able to go to a mid week matinee and, although it is sad to find a very sparse audience, it was lovely to be able to virtually pick my seat and see the dancers much more closely than I am used to.

 

 I hadn't particularly liked Fantastic Beings first time round but enjoyed it more today, although I am not sure it adds up to too much although it was very well danced. For me it is too long - I enjoyed the quirky movements to start with it and then I felt it really began to sag quite badly and it felt I was going to merge into countless other ballets I had seen at Sadlers Wells over the years danced in gloomy lighting and leotards which all seem merged into one slightly forgettable blob! I have no idea what the fringed costumes signify and while I found them a bit ridiculous and the glittery ending a bit clichéd, today I found it very effective when all the dancers were on stage together madly pirouetting.  Apart from the Forsythe ballets done at the ROH, I haven't really seen much of his work but did enjoy Approximate Sonata. Normally I would find dancers stopping and talking very irritating but I felt quite receptive today and enjoyed seeing his very particular brand of choreography again.

 

Having never seen The Cage but read about it quite a lot, this was the one that really interested me. I think may be my expectations were too high as while it was undeniably dramatic, it didn't quite pack the punch I was expecting. From photos I had seen, I thought the set was much more cage like rather than the 'web-ish' one we saw. There were definitely some very arresting dance images but overall this felt, for me, slightly disappointing.

 

Had totally the opposite reaction to Playlist - it was one of those rare moments when seeing a ballet for the first time, I just wanted it to start again immediately. It's just pure, unadulterated, pleasure and I was quite taken aback - and taken by - just how classical a lot of the movement is. Like Irmgard above, I wish it had been more brightly lit (I can't understand this desire for murk) as, from their movements, the dancers just seemed to be loving every minute and it would have been the icing on the cake to see if their faces reflected the joy they communicated to the audience. Do hope this becomes a staple of the repertoire - it left me with a very big grin on my face!  Congratulations to all the dancers.

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6 hours ago, BMC said:

Had totally the opposite reaction to Playlist - it was one of those rare moments when seeing a ballet for the first time, I just wanted it to start again immediately.

 

Me too - although I guessed perhaps the dancers might not agree: I had a flashback to the famous instance where Sibley and Dowell were dropped in it by Ashton and made to repeat the pas de deux from Thais at its premiere!

 

Overall, though, I found the programme a bit bitty: it felt as though the first piece was almost as long as the other three combined, and I ended up feeling that I'd  been filling up on snacks rather than eating a full meal.  It did however finish off on a very high note with Playlist - and that certainly went down a storm with the party of schoolchildren in the audience!  I look forward to seeing it again (possibly at every conceivable opportunity!)

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I'm going out on a limb over this, I considered this the poorest programme ENB has presented for many years and the empty seats around me would testify to a lack of enthusiasm from the public generally.  I don't care very little for Forsythe, though the pieces shown were more balletic than a lot of his output and were at least not saddled with pretentious titles.  For the rest, the revival of Fantastic Beings really puzzled me, shortening it made it less tedious but it seemed a lot of energy was spent for no real purpose.  I enjoyed The Cage but that was it.  The dancers were all terrific they danced flat out and deserved their applause, but frankly what I enjoyed most about the evening was going home.

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40 minutes ago, MAB said:

the revival of Fantastic Beings really puzzled me, shortening it made it less tedious

 

Was it shorter?  I couldn't remember (and since ENB don't put running times on their cast sheets I was unable to confirm)

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28 minutes ago, alison said:

 

Was it shorter?  I couldn't remember (and since ENB don't put running times on their cast sheets I was unable to confirm)

 

Yes - by around 8 minutes I reckon. But I felt that there was still scope to reduce it more.

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