Choreographer: David Nixon
Beauty and the Beast is, of course, the classic story of Beauty selflessly leaving her home and family to go and live in the Beast’s castle where she sees him for more than just a monster. Northern Ballet’s return to the stage this winter version of this familiar tale, now a little over a decade old, but showing no signs of rusting.
Set to a handpicked score of French and Russian music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the likes of Bizet and Debussy, this incarnation of the tale as old as time gives an updated take which is equal parts witty and moralistic. Opening on a strutting Prince (Jonathan Hanks), we soon see instead a transformed snarling Beast (Kevin Poeung) complete with hairy legs and an excess of leather which could certainly have caused some movement issues on a less capable dancer. On Poeung the Beast is a compelling and sympathetic character whose movements set him at odds with his surroundings and give the audience genuine insight into his pain.
Opposite him, Dominique Larose’s Beauty lives with her father and her spoiled sisters who have squandered their father’s fortune on parties and jewellery until mounting debts lead to them losing their home, having misadventures in an old derelict van, and finally Beauty heading off to live with the Beast. Her serene and gentle style pairs subtly and beautifully against the rough Beast and creates a genuinely affecting love story. Larose is captivating to watch in the most genuine sense of the word. Any time she moves all eyes follow her and her expression can both create laughs and move audiences; she is truly something special to watch.
The most moving piece of the performance comes from Beauty dancing with the Prince as the Beasty tries to keep pace, in a section choreographed wonderfully with accompanying strings, courtesy of the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, to create a magical moment. Throughout this performance it is the Sinfonia who bring the story to life as their music fills the auditorium and draws the audience into this performance.
It must be noted here, that prior to the show audience members were greeted with the news that due to stagnation of Arts Council funding the Northern Ballet is considering replacing their live orchestra with recorded music. The Orchestra have launched a campaign to Keep Northern Ballet Live and are collecting signatures in an online petition to help the cause. Anyone who has seen this performance, or goes to see it in the future, will surely agree that allowing this to happen would be a travesty. The power and importance of live music with live performance cannot be understated.
This is a genuine beauty of a ballet. The principle performers compliment one another in a way which is interesting and moving, the sets work to tell the story, and the music moves the audience in all the right ways. It is surely one of the strongest Northern Ballet productions, and one not to be missed.
Runs Until: 25 November 2023