Beauty and the Beast (Northern Ballet) at Theatre Royal
Not, mercifully, the Disney version but a new ballet created by David Nixon, this dazzling production was high on characterisation, narrative and nifty sets/lighting effects. With a score pieced together from classical orchestral favourites it might perhaps be viewed as a patchwork of guaranteed crowd-pleasing elements, but as it certainly pleased the crowd, who could complain? You all know the story so let’s get down to the stunning set design, which was so inventive it raised an audible audience response. When Beauty’s family lose all their money, the repo men appear in a van and, in a hilarious gesture of instant recycling, simply fold down the decorative panels of their house into timber crates in which their goods are carted off. A creaky car becomes a new home, a mirror turns Prince into Beast, and the latter’s castle has giant locks, a lounging Beast bed and web-like climbing wall, all adding to the possibilities of movement and characterisation as well as looking damn fine. Oh yes – and the dancing was rather good too, exploring a range of lyrical grace, athletic dynamism and a surprising amount of humour. I loved the way that final set of costumes for the female dancers revealed bare legs rather than the expected tights, thus showing the sheer muscular control needed to create that light-as-air effect. The preeningly vain Prince Orion (Jackson Dwyer) had by the end learned his lesson to become the perfect partner, but inevitably it was his incarnation as the Beast (danced by Harris Beattie) which won the most applause, powerfully acted as well as danced. Oh, and did I mention there were Goblins too? That’s pretty much all the bases covered.