BalletDanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

Geisha – Leeds Grand Theatre

Reviewer: Ray Taylor

Music: Alexandra Harwood

Choreography and Direction: Kenneth Tindall

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Any new production by Northern Ballet is always eagerly anticipated and this World Premiere of Kenneth Tindall’s Geisha certainly does not disappoint. It is thrilling, lyrical, heart-rending, eerie, passionate, romantic and moving in equal measure.

The short opening prologue scene sets the high standard throughout with its very evocative setting of a fishing village and the overall staging and production values are first class. The music composed by the talented and experienced Alexandra Harwood is a blend of the classical and cinematic and beautifully complements the storytelling and action on stage. Overall, Geisha  offers a visual and aesthetic experience that will guarantee a standing ovation and leave audiences uplifted by artistry of the highest order. It is surely destined to become a regular part of the repertoire.

Inspired by true events, the ballet is the tragic story of the life and death of a young geisha called Okichi who is something of a national heroine in Japan. There is even a statue of her in her hometown. The story boasts grand passion, love, violence, retribution, vengeance and death as Okichi has an unhappy relationship with an American (shades of Madame Butterfly) forsaking her true love Takeda, takes her own life and is condemned to wander the spirit world until finally being redeemed from beyond the grave by her childhood friend Aiko.

Minju Kang in the leading role has a very demanding part as she is virtually on stage throughout but she dances and acts superbly and her performance is faultless. In the second half Okichi inhabits the strange wilderness of the spirit world, a place that is splendidly realised by the production team and may be too frightening for younger members of the audience. Here Kang is both a menacing and forlorn figure evoking great pity for her plight whilst simultaneously causing us to shudder at her murderous actions. Her appearance conjures up images of the great Japanese black and white horror movies such as Onibaba and is the stuff of nightmares.

Sarah Chun as Aiko has an equally demanding role which she masters with great aplomb. All the female duets are beautifully rendered and gracefully accomplished.  Riku Ito looks suitably samurai-like as Takeda and displays great athleticism and litheness of limb. The whole company (quite large) universally display their dancing prowess and all give assured and confident performances.

Runs until 21st March 2020

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