Review: Northern Ballet’s Dracula, West Yorkshire Playhouse
[Image: Northern Ballet dancers Christopher Hinton-Lewis and Georgina May in David Nixon OBE’s Dracula. Photo Merlin Hendy]
9th September 2014
West Yorkshire Playhouse
This Autumn, Artistic director David Nixon resurrected Northern Ballet’s interpretation of Bram Stoker’s legendary novel Dracula. Performed by the company for the first time since 2009, this production ran at West Yorkshire Playhouse.
For those of you unaware of the chilling legend that is Dracula (danced by Tobias Batley), the story follows the immortal count and his endless torment and seduction of the hot-blooded women of London.
The story begins with the rise of the Count and his seductive neck-biting female counterparts, before his encounter with Jonathan Harker (Ashley Dixon). The interpretation is just as much theatrical as it is dance and we are taken through the story at exhilarating pace. Admiration for the set design is inevitable, as Ali Allen assists in setting the gothic overtones of the famous literary piece through breathtaking backdrops that frame the scenes.
The choreography is captivating – with the energy bouncing back and fourth between each character – and persuading, with hypnotic power that Dracula uses to manipulate each one of them. Ensemble work is kept to a minimum with focus being on the more intimate interaction between Dracula and his victims, one of whom is the captivating Lucy (Pippa Moore). As the story follows Lucy and her unfortunate fate as Dracula devours and deprives her of the life she once led, the synergy between them is mesmerising and displays the pure strength of the dancers.
Northern Ballet dancers Christopher Hinton-Lewis (Dracula) and Martha Leebolt (Mina) in David Nixon OBE’s Dracula. Photo Merlin Hendy
Her dramatic change allows the focus to be taken off Dracula when he comes face to face with his next obsession, the innocent Mina (Martha Leebolt), at the ball that is being held in celebration of Lucy’s engagement to Arthur Holmwood. The sideline story of Lucy and her suitors is just as enticing as the main plot. Arthur Holmwood (Hironao Takahashi) and Dr Jack Steward (Kenneth Tindall) portray their affections for Lucy in a way that makes her death even more of a tragedy, both conveying their shared grief to the audience.
Mina’s conflict of her attraction to the count and her love for fiancé Jonathan Harker, is perfectly portrayed, drawing our attention by illuminating him in the background whilst Mina remains dancing in the foreground; an effective way of guiding the audience through the storyline before we see Mina too, consumed by the count with his obsessive lust for her.
Special mention should also go to the character of Renfield (Kevin Poeung), who portrayed the madness in being consumed by Dracula’s torment with such conviction. His grand reception from the audience shows he has a well deserved following and rightly so.
For those who are ballet novices like myself, the mixture of dramatic theatre and dance is alluring enough to capture and hold your undivided attention much like Dracula does to his victims. Unlike the count however, this ballet does anything but suck!
You can catch Northern Ballet performing across the country throughout Autumn, Winter and Spring 2015.
The company are reviving their seductive interpretation of The Great Gatsby, alongside Cinderella, Elves & The Shoemaker, Peter Pan, Romeo & Juliet and Wuthering Heights.
Visit www.northernballet.com for further details.