ITS LOVE AT FIRST BITE

Liz Coggins reviews Northern Ballet’s Dracula at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

ITS LOVE AT FIRST BITE

ITS LOVE AT FIRST BITE
Liz Coggins reviews Northern Ballet’s Dracula
at West Yorkshire PlayhouseDavid Nixon’s production of Dracula is a full bloodied show with a dramatic bite.

The ballet, last performed in 2009, is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s legendary novel published in 1897. It’s a dark and sinister tale played out through Northern Ballet’s unique blend of dance, gripping theatre,gothic sets and costumes.

In this work Nixon has successfully revealed the tormented world of the immortal count and it sits beautifully on the dark, cavernous stage of the Playhouse bringing the action and horror of the piece within arm’s reach.

The opening is stark and simple as a man steps out of a coffin. We see a wonderfully constructed coach and horses emerge through swirling mist and arrive at a castle inTransylvania where Jonathan Harker a young lawyer has been called to help with legal business. He finds himself trapped inside as a prisoner and falls under the spell of the Brides of Dracula who want to feed upon his blood whilst Dracula, the vampire, who lives at the castle reaches into Harker’s mind. He sees Harker’s beautiful fiancé Mina and leaves for England to find and seduce her. From then we witness the plight of two engaged young women who develop an intense full-blooded relationship with Dracula and the efforts of those close to them to rescue them and put an end to the evil count.

Nixon’s choreography is very physical with a strong dramatic interpretation consolidated by ingenious Victorian Gothic sets designed by Ali Allen, Tim Mitchell’s expert lighting design and Julie Anderson’s exquisite and spectacular period costumes.

By choosing an eclectic mix of music by Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Part, Michael Daugherty and Sergei Rachmaninov, Nixon has been able to add fear, romance, evil, passionate emotion and an eerie ambience to his ballet – although at times the music seems to slow the plot, be over repetitive and a tad annoying.

As Count Dracula, Tobias Batley was menacing, frightening but created moments of tenderness laced with pathos. Again Martha Leebolt as Mina and Batley blended so beautifully together, especially in the last par-de-deux, proving they are a force to be reckoned with in the ballet world.

Pippa Moore’s Lucy swung from sweetness and light to a fiery passion showing just how versatile she can be. As Harker, Ashley Dixon, who hails from Hull, had a tough task at the beginning setting the scene, but his strong interpretation got the message over. Dixon’s dance with the Brides of Dracula (Rachael Gillespie, Jessica Morgan and Hannah Bateman) was amazing involving some difficult lifts and complicated choreography.

Kevin Poeung as Renfield’s disturbed patient was electrifying. Suspended high above the Quarry stage in a cage and lowered at times, his portrayal was not only ultra-physical it was believably outstanding.

It was good to see Darren Goldsmith, the company’s principal character artist in a sizeable dance role as Dr Van Hesling. Goldsmith along with Kenny Tindall (Dr Seward) and Hironao Takahashi (Arthur Holmwood) this trio have some very demanding choreography and lifts to execute and are the lynch pin that holds the show together.

Dracula is a work which you will either love or hate. For me, although at times the choreography seemed a little workmanlike, it was certainly love at first bite.

Northern Ballet will be touring throughout the region with a full programme of ballet’s over the next nine months. For details go to northernballet.com

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