Review: The Northern Ballet’s Wuthering Heights

By November 19, 2015

Theatre & Dance. Bradford.

Tobias Batley as Heathcliff. Photo credit: Caroline Holden.

Tobias Batley as Heathcliff. Photo credit: Caroline Holden.

Wild passion, dangerous love, manipulation and revenge, are the themes distilled from the classic Bronte novel by genius Northern Ballet Artistic Director David Nixon OBE. We see the relationship between the young Cathy and Heathcliff in their innocent friendship and joyful playfulness. But we follow them then into an adult world where Cathy has social aspirations that demand a marriage without love and Heathcliff transforms from feral orphan to genteel gentleman, still burning a flame for his passionate friend.

Photo credit: Emma Kauldhar

Photo credit: Emma Kauldhar

In this way the narrative is faithful to the novel though the production benefits also from Nixon’s stunning costumes, Claude-Michel Schönberg’s stunningly beautiful score, sumptuous lighting by Alastair West after David Grill, and a magnificent ensemble performance. Highlights include a bitter sweet wedding scene where Heathcliff re-appears as an uninvited guest; Heathcliff’s own pas de deux with his younger self; and a tortuous if inevitable death scene for Cathy.

There is very effective use of dream imagery and flashback with Ali Allen’s set allowing seamless transformations from exotic wilderness to bourgeois splendour. The final doom, although foretold, is gripping in its intensity and the dancers’ acting abilities are really put to the test, as if the various roles’ movement were not enervating enough. The heights of joyous love and depths of despair and desolation are achieved with great aplomb. A revival that is so full of intense emotion, a captivating tour de force and everything we have come to expect from the formidable Northern Ballet.

If you admire the Bronte novel but are afraid a dance re-working may not suit, be assured you will be just as moved by the production as you are with the original now classic tale.

Reviewed on 17 November 2015 at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford where it runs until 21 November. See for further info.