Frederick Ashton's final full-length ballet La Fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter) is one of his most joyous creations, inspired by his love for the Suffolk countryside. It is based on a 1789 French ballet originally created by Jean Dauberval; John Lanchbery created the music for Ashton's ballet from Ferdinand Hérold's 1828 score. La Fille mal gardée was a resounding success on its premiere in 1960 and has remained a firm favourite in The Royal Ballet's repertory.
The ballet displays some of Ashton's most virtuoso choreography, most strikingly in the series of energetic pas de deux that express the youthful passion of Lise and Colas. The ballet is also laced with exuberant good humour, in a whirl of dancing chickens, grouchy guardians and one very unwilling suitor. Ashton affectionately incorporated elements of national folk dance into his choreography, from a Lancashire clog dance to a maypole dance, making La Fille mal gardée - despite its title - emphatically English. Osbert Lancaster's colourful designs heighten the production's delightful pastoral wit.