Beauty and the Beast – Review – Leeds Grand

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beauty and the beast leeds grand northern ballet

Beauty and the Beast – Review

Leeds Grand, December 2016

by Sandra Callard

Northern Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast has opened at the Grand Theatre in Leeds to packed houses. The creative team is impressive, and is led by choreographer David Nixon OBE, who brings his usual brilliance to the dancing.

beauty and the best leeds grand northern balletPrince Orian is handsome but vain. His friends, courtiers and servants pander to his egotism and his every need. Danced by Giuliano Contadini, he brings a magnificent self-satisfied strut to his dancing, and quite definitely needs taking down a peg or two.

This is done by the evil fairy, La Fee Magnifique, (menacingly danced by Victoria Sibson). She changes his appearance so drastically that people run in fear of the Beast he becomes. But help is at hand in the form of the evil fairy’s sister, La Fee Luminaire, (a glorious Hannah Bateman). She tells him he can only regain his former body if he truly falls in love, and his love is returned.

“A river of liquid purple and silver”

We also have three lovely sisters, and their widow father. Two of the sisters are spendthrift and shallow, but the third one, called Beauty, is good, loving and gentle. She looks after her father, is indulgent to her sisters, and is dreaming of love. She is charmingly danced by Dreda Blow, with a grace and agility hard to surpass. But her father is forced to give her to the Beast to save his life and that of his other daughters.

beauty and the best leeds grand northern balletNixon’s choreography is superb, and the music is the most beautiful accompaniment to it. The score includes Saint-Saens’ ‘Dance Macabre’, Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’, and Bizet’s ‘Seven Movements from Jeux d’enfants’, all immediately recognisable, even if the titles are not.

Mention of production credits is always difficult, with so many artists at work, but the lighting designs of Tim Mitchell are superlative. The lighting turns the colours of the silver dress worn by the good fairy into a river of liquid purple and silver, and the innovative costume designs and production of David Nixon and Julie Anderson are in a class of their own.

“Completely captivating and comical”

I absolutely love the sets by Duncan Hayler, from the clever climbing walls which echo the mounting paranoia and frustration of the Beast the higher he goes, to the astonishing gigantic lorry backing on to the stage and the squalid motor home of the displaced family. Totally out of place, and yet not at all irrelevant.

beauty and the best leeds grand northern balletA mention also for the four goblins. They appear in the most pioneering costumes I have seen in years. They are almost impossible to describe, as their contortive actions add to the novelty of their dance. Suffice it to say they are ragged, deformed, ugly specimens, and are completely captivating and comical.

The fairy story of Beauty and the Beast is well known. As with all good fairy tales, it has a strong moral thread running through it. Good always wins, and evil always faces defeat. None of this matters though when we go to watch ballet. We go to see the wonder of the dance. To exalt at the almost impossible movements of the dancers, which can appear to defy gravity. And to thrill to the glorious music which accompanies it.

We have all this and more in Northern Ballet’s production. As Christmas draws near it seems right and appropriate to accept the theme of this most wonderful of ballets. That love will always triumph in the end.

Photos: Emma Kauldhar

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