Victoria (Northern Ballet) – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Sandra Callard, March 2019
Leeds is the home of leading dance company Northern Ballet, who are presenting the world premiere of a brand new ballet, Victoria, based on the life of Queen Victoria. With direction and choreography by Cathy Marston and original score by Philip Feeney, the long and eventful life of the Queen is beautifully and eloquently told in superb music and dance.
Victoria is danced by Abigail Prudames with a persuasive grace that makes every step a joy. Prudames has danced with Northern Ballet for eight years and has honed her art to perfection. Victoria lives and breathes with an easy realism amidst a spectacular repertoire of balletic expertise. From the joy of a young girl in love to the startlingly beautiful wedding night consummation, Prudames gives the performance of her life. She has a handsome and elegant partner in Joseph Taylor who dances the role of Prince Albert with a sure and certain hand that makes certain that Victoria, or indeed any other woman, will accept him.
Prudames is excellently supported by Pippa Moore as Victoria’s adult daughter, Beatrice, and Miki Akuta as the young Beatrice who, as Victoria’s youngest child, is her long-serving and selfless companion for most of her life. Her depth of duty is shown in her every studied movement and graceful commitment to her mother. Beatrice is responsible for editing the numerous diaries the Queen wrote, spanning practically all the years of her life, and this became a driving force for Beatrice, both before and after her mother’s death.
The music is newly written for this production by Philip Feeney, who has brought a beautifully appropriate and sensitive score to the ballet, which ebbs and flows as a perfect accompaniment to the dancing and the moods of each scene change.
“Drama and power”
The ballet contains a huge amount of famous characters from the Victorian era, amongst which are the Queen’s nine children and their spouses. From the politics of the time we have Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Melbourne and William Gladstone, but it is almost impossible to identify every person. Only the character of John Brown is easily recognisable as he partners the Queen through some dramatic dancing as their friendship grows after the early and tragic death of Prince Albert. Mlindi Kulashe dances the role of Brown with drama and power and and is quite mesmerising as the servant who won the love of a Queen.
The stage setting is relatively simple and requires little attention, and, along with the clever and emotive lighting, provides all the subtle background that is required. The wardrobe excels itself in the sumptuous uniforms and dresses that epitomise the Victorian era, and the classy and understated setting is a perfect foil for this.
The story is told in both past and present sections, and in Act I there are nine changes from past to present, and in Act II there are seven. This does necessitate some quick thinking as the brain attempts to adjust to the time slip, a feat which I confess I did not always manage.
The reign of Queen Victoria was long and eventful, and so perhaps necessitated the condensing of some circumstances, which did result in slight loss of sequence, and the constant change from past to present exacerbated this, but this is a small niggle in a practically flawless production, alive with great music and magnificent dance.
images: Emma Kauldhar