Liz Coggins reviews Northern Ballet's dramatic new production


Northern Ballet has always been synonymous with imaginative works but Jonathan Watkins new ballet 1984, based on George Orwell’s iconic novel, more than pushes the boundaries of the imagination .

Watkins’ work is powerful and thought provoking and to bring this gripping, chilling story to the stage through dance is a major triumph. His robotic choreography is amazing and blends beautifully with the myriad of other choreographic styles used in the work.

But the success of this production doesn’t lie with Watkins alone some of it must be shared with his creative team.

Alex Baranowki’s original score is haunting and atmospheric. A score for such a work could have so easily been full of synchronised electronical sound but Branowski has masterfully embedded the techno into a tuneful melodies skilfully handled in the pit by John Pryce-Jones.

1984 relies heavily on its set design and the ever present prying eye and the overall claustrophobic sense of surveillance, and its here where the design team have triumphed providing a dramatic but unobtrusive set and effects that move with the story, music and choreophgraphy and where the pixilated eyes of Big Brother are ever present..

This is a difficult physical and emotional work for any dancer to interpret. It demands un-natural movements and expressionless faces that change in the flickering of a screen to anger and repression and the talented company succeed impressively.
Tobias Batley (Winston Smith) is outstanding. He moves through just about every emotion, generating an ethos that takes his audience with him every step of the way. Likewise Martha Leebolt (Julia) creates a myriad of emotions in her journey which ultimately ends in doom.

1984 could be described as an uncomfortable work but for dance enthusiasts it’s a whole new experience and a pathway to the future.

At West Yorkshire Playhouse until Sat 12 September. Tours until May culminating at London Sadlers Wells Tues 24 to 28 May


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