Skip to main content

Review of Northern Ballet: Victoria at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

As a theatre reviewer, I sometimes attend styles of shows that I am a general layperson of, ballet is one. I have seen two before, and both while visually good to watch, I generally didn't know much about the detail they were going into, maybe it didn't matter? Also occasionally when I attend shows with unfamiliar history, I might seek an advisor as my plus one, and as it happened by luck rather than selection, my plus one on this evening was a former ballet dancer. I should plunder their wealth of knowledge perhaps? Actually, I choose not to, but more on this later.

Victoria is a new ballet from Cathy Marston, who over the years has illustrated through ballet a great many famous stories, from that of Jane Eyre, Elephant Man and Lady Chatterley's Lover. Here though, Marston brings her choreography to the life of Queen Victoria, taking her diaries as the very driving force of the production. It is, with a little help from the detailed programme story, a cleverly created ballet.


So, back to my companion expert. I thought about using her advice and listened greatly to all the descriptions being given, and then between us, we mostly decided to ignore them for the purposes of this review. The reason? If you are a ballet fan, you are more than likely to be seeing this brand new play from the highly regarded Northern Ballet already, and simply put from my companion, if you are not, you should do anyway.

My role here as that layperson I guess is to advice, my fellow layperson. Does Victoria have enough interest to hold the casual audience member who might have recently seen a traditional play or a crazy musical? The answer I think is yes.

Victoria is a visual feast of a show, presented by a huge and highly talented company, and Marston has worked extremely hard to clearly make this appeal to all, not just ballet aficionados.

The entire story is told through Victoria's daughter Beatrice played by premier (and soon to retire) dancer Pippa Moore, and it is a controlled and at times also fun performance. Her role, as a reader and indeed editor of the diaries, is a vital one, and as this piece flashes back and forth in time, her position cleverly switches between observer and instigator of the action. The latter in lovely but ultimately sad sequences with her love Liko. Moore is vital to the groundwork of the show, and it is a classy performance.

Abigail Prudames plays Victoria with an air of authority throughout, her command of the events, especially in the second half when it is Victoria's rather that Beatrice's telling, is brilliantly judged. Between Prudames and Moore, this partnership and skills of expression or deliberate lack of at times drive the entire show.

Elsewhere, there is enormous strength in the work of Mlindi Kulashe as Victoria's servant, and "companion" John Brown. There is also a particularly fine partnership between Miki Akuta as young Beatrice and her love Liko played by Sean Bates, their work together is some of the best of the show. However, this entire production has many fine performances, that it is mention all, except saying this is a very fine company of dances.

Marston's work manages to convey mostly successfully the detailed history, and to steal one item from my companion has some nods towards the work of Martha Graham, it will be very obvious to experts, and is also now to me, and Prudames is particularly superb when it comes to these moments.

Some of the staging and large performance numbers are superb and stunning to watch, so busy that your eye is drawn from performer to performer very easily. There are some glorious moments created with a particularly brilliant sequence involving the Queen's offspring and Albert's empire expansion, and a laugh out loud moment of shock from Beatrice to her mother's expressive coupling.

The set is extremely good, two great stairs that provide two levels for an observer to frequently watch, and the idea of the library itself is clever and well produced with a series of real and unreal bookcases, allowing dramatic usage of them. The only issue, and thankfully only in the first act, is a tremendously misjudged use of a giant curtain for set changes, often just a bust or a chair. On its first use, I thought it was a neat idea, however, on repeated use, it becomes a noisy distraction and should have been spotted as such in early preparation.

Philip Feeney's score is superb, bringing film style drama to the piece, but with some equally nuanced moments as well. It's vital to the success of the piece as well, and the highly talented orchestra is one of the best I have heard in presenting it, and the technical setup of this is top notch as well.

Victoria is brilliant as both a ballet and a carefully constructed story, it is clearly detailed, maybe occasionally too much so, so, a reading up beforehand is unquestionably recommended. However, ballet fan or not, you will almost certainly be delighted by this vivid production and should I suggest seeking it out.

A visually stunning piece of ballet, with detailed storytelling and performances.

Performance reviewed: Tuesday 30th April 2019 at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes.
Victoria runs at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 4th May 2019 before continuing its tour.
Further details about Milton Keynes Theatre can be found at http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre/

Photos: Emma Kauldhar

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Hacktivists by Ben Ockrent performed by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

The National Theatres Connections series of plays had been one of my highlights of my trips to R&D during 2014. Their short and snappy single act style kept them all interesting and never overstaying their welcome. So I was more than ready for my first encounter with one of this years Connections plays ahead of the main week of performances at R&D later in the year. Hacktivists is written by Ben Ockrent, whose slightly wacky but socially relevant play Breeders I had seen at St James Theatre last year. Hacktivists is less surreal, but does have a fair selection of what some people would call odd. Myself of the other hand would very much be home with them. So we are presented with thirteen nerdy "friends" who meet to hack, very much in what is termed the white hat variety. This being for good, as we join them they appear to have done very little more than hacked and created some LED light device. Crashing in to spoil the party however comes Beth (Emma-Ann Cranston)

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c

Review of Theft at the Castle Theatre Studio, Wellingborough

The comedy-thriller Theft by Eric Chappell tells the story of an anniversary celebrating couple returning to the devastation of their home being ransacked in a burglary. However, this ransacking pales in comparison to the ransacking of their lives that then occurs as home truths are revealed. Anyone old enough to remember the works of Theft writer Chappell ( Rising Damp and Only When I Laugh ), could be forgiven for thinking that this 1996 play might feel a little dated for a 2021 audience. However, bar a few references much of their time now (the weaker sex and female priests for instance), Theft still feels comfortable in the 2021 world, where many of us just want both a good evening of theatre and a good bit of fun. With Theft from the highly regarded Wellingborough Technical Players, they get just that. The action starts as we find the man of the house John Miles played by Graham Breeze returning, very angry, to his home. He is a rightfully boisterous character, channelling all th