Tuesday, 29 September 2015

"1984" by Northern Ballet
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

I was interested in how they would create the intensity and "fear factor" of Orwell's 1948 novel and while they succeeded in creating an atmosphere of being watched, thanks to the large back screen with the overseeing eyes, they didn't quite create the same "fear" as a conventional play of the book.

That aside, to say there's obviously no dialogue with ballet, they relayed the tale of Winston Smith and his lover, Julia, extremely well. The story of Smith who, after buying a blank book in a junk shop, he fills it with his thoughts, which of course is against what "Big Brother" wants everyone to do. He takes a lover in Julia, who works for the Ministry, and only embarks on the illicit affair to bend the rules of the society.

Needless to say the Society catch Smith and Julia and they "disappear" in an impressive end to the ballet.

The dance is spectacular, passionate and emotive but all the while they deliver the story with help of a backdrop and screens to tell you where they are up to in the story. the two principals, Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt are enigmatic; you can't take your eyes off of them and they rule the stage when performing. A brilliant ensemble of talent from all over the world have you captivated by their strict, jaunty and contemporary movements and smooth faithful ballet lines.

If you can remember having one of those kaleidoscopes when you were young, the sort where you'd see several images of the same thing, mirrored many times, well that's what this group looked like. Absolutely spot on timing.

Talking of timing, this amazing orchestra, under the direction of John Pryce-Jones, had to get the music aligned with the visuals and images on stage. A second out of sync and the whole feel and atmosphere of the story may just have been lost. No fear here because everything was split-second timed.

To sum up, this production is just a delight to see and hear; beautiful music composed by Alex Baronowski and breath-taking ballet. A classic story, but lacking the tension of a standard theatre production. But don't let that deter you from seeing one of the best ballet troupes, with some incredible choreography from Jonathan Watkins, who also directed the piece.

"1984" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 3 October 2015.

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