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Waterfront Festival


1 October 15 words: Victoria Villasenor
Theatre Royal is currently showing an edgy ballet with a timeless message, taken from Mr Orwell. We got down to check it out

Northern Ballet performing 1984

The classic novel 1984 by George Orwell explores what happens when government takes over people’s individual lives. It’s a thought provoking, eerie, and ultimately sad story of a man’s desire to fight the dystopian world around him, but to no avail.

Telling this story without words, getting across themes and ideas rather than just plot, should have been difficult. However, the Northern Ballet has managed to do just that. For two hours, they mesmerise the audience with their non-stop intensity and stunning dance.

The music in this ballet is, perhaps, even more evocative than the dancing. With the cello and clarinet wrapped around the primary dancers, Winston Smith (danced by Tobias Bailey) and Julia (danced by Martha Leebolt), and rebellious thoughts signalled by ascending strings, the music powerfully pulls the audience into the story. The clock work, machinery notes which accompany the dancers, deftly allow for the feeling of conformity, and throughout the scenes of Hate Week and the lovely, flowing scenes with the Proles, the emotional connection is secured by the orchestra.

A ballet is only as strong as its premier dancers, and this ballet is no exception. Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt are captivating as the two characters who dare to love outside regulations. Batley uses facial expressions to their fullest to show his interest, bewilderment and fascination with the possibility of being more than he is allowed to be. Leebolt does an amazing job of showing a strong woman, and every movement she makes is one of delicate determination. The love scene at the end of Act I is breath-taking. Every move they make, every leap and twist, speaks of sensuality and desperation. So, too, is the scene of capture. Here, Leebolt’s dancing is superb as she attempts escape, only to be dragged away.

The rest of the troupe are excellent. Javier Torres, as O’Brien, shows his Cuban roots as he struts around the stage like a Matador. Hironao Takahashi, dancing Mr Charrington, is an interesting shop keeper, although his stage presence isn’t quite that of the others. Victoria Sibson, dancing the soloist part of a Prole, is a perfect antithesis in her sweeping, sensual movements as opposed to those of the Members of the Party, with their sharp, mechanical movements. During the group dance scenes, the play of light behind them, creating deep shadows, adds an extra element of eerie conformity to the show.

This isn’t a light-hearted ballet; it’s ballet with a purpose, with a message, and, as always with the Northern Ballet, with stunning dance.

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


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