The magnificent Northern Ballet can always be relied upon to entertain at the highest level and once again they didn’t disappoint. This year’s offering was Beauty and The Beast, which provided a great opportunity to introduce the delights of ballet to a younger audience. Judging by the number of excited children milling about in the foyer, this was an opportunity that many agreed was too good to miss.
While following the traditional story of the fairytale, this retelling focused our attention on the psychological transformation of the Beast. In the first act, the handsome but haughty, vain and cruel Prince is changed by La Fée Magnifique so that his outward appearance is a better reflection of the ugliness inside. During acts two and three we witness his growing awareness and shame of the shallow creature he used to be, and his despair at the apparently ugly creature he has become.
When Beauty’s love finally saves him and he is outwardly transformed back into the beautiful prince he was, it is with the knowledge that this is may not have been possible had he not made the painful psychological transformation that first rendered him beautiful on the inside too.
As always, the complete ensemble was superb, from the choreography, set and lighting design through to each individual performer. Martha Leebolt as Beauty was inspirational but was matched on technique, style and characterisation by the fabulous Ashley Dixon as the Beast and the great Kenneth Tindall as the Prince. Having commented, after watching the Northern’s Cleopatra last year, on the unusually remarkable acting skills of this troupe of dancers, this was once again a salient feature that sets this company in a class of their own.
Alongside the breathtaking beauty and earnest honesty of the staging and performance, there were some surprising comic moments: for instance, the life-sized removal van that reversed on to the stage to take away everything Beauty’s family owned, including the clothes her sisters were wearing – leaving them in their underwear and the removal men themselves strutting on in sunglasses looking a little like the Matrix characters in tights, was both witty and fun.
For children from age 6-ish upwards, and for the uninitiated adult, this is a simply marvellous introduction to the sometimes inaccessible language of dance. For the rest of us, it is simply another incredible Northern Ballet triumph, just as we have come to expect.
Edinburgh run ends tonight 7.30pm