Writer: John Boyne
Choreographer and Director: Daniel de Andrade
Music: Gary Yershon
Musicians: Northern Ballet Sinfonia
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
The ambitious task of expressing a well-known book and an already a famous film about an unpleasant period of history into a ballet is brought about to perfection in Northern Ballet’s The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. The austerity of the set, just the Nazi emblem above harsh lighting with the occasional spot, presents the scene, leaving plenty of room for the dancers. A desk denotes an office, a bed or a table a home. “Gas” continuously puffs in from off stage. The infamous fence appears and disappears as required, separating the two boys, one a camp prisoner, the other the indulged son of the camp commandant.
There are scenes of happy family life, successful father, loving mother, happy children, interspersed with crowd scenes of prisoners being captured, crammed into a cattle truck, then driven by guards through the camp gates. All is unnoticed by the playing children.
The choreography moves from goose-stepping soldiers to romantic classical ballet. The children romp acrobatically and there are pas de deux enough for lovers of Swan Lake. It is modern without any of the writhing on the ground seen in many contemporary productions. There is a pitiful depiction of exhaustion among the prisoners, probably as exhausting to portray as any fast, whirling leaps.
It is very hard to pick out one dancer from this magnificent company but special mention must be made of Mlindi Kulashe, who dances Fury, as this character pervades the whole evening. For “Fury” read “Fuhrer”. He embodies total evil control.
The two boys, danced by Matthew Koon as Bruno and Filippo Di Vilio as Shmuel, develop their friendship as best they can but the whole ends in tragedy for all. Not a happy story but this strong company of international dancers can hold its own with any other to give the audience full value.
They have their own orchestra, conducted by John Pryce-Jones, who play work specially written for the ballet, accompanying the dancers rather than having them dance to the music.
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is a heart-rending tale told beautifully through the medium of ballet.
Runs until 7 June 2017 then tour continues | Image: Emma Kauldhar