Review: Northern Ballet’s Peter Pan

By December 18, 2014

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

[Image: (c) Northern Ballet]


Hot on the heels of their delightfully seductive Dracula, Northern Ballet are back with a whimsical Christmas treat for the whole family. Peter Pan, the company’s latest full-length narrative ballet from artistic director David Nixon OBE, offers a fresh adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s iconic and beloved tale of magic and adventure. Prepare to be swept up into the stars with Wendy, John and Michael on your way to Neverland, an enchanting world where children can fly and fairies really do exist. But of course its not all fun and games, as the presence of the vengeful Captain Hook and his motley crew of pirate chums quickly becomes apparent. Plus with the fate of his loyal sidekick Tinkerbell in question, will Pan (and indeed the audience) be able to save the day?

Besides the dancing itself, one of the most important things a ballet can do is effectively tell a story through visual choreography plus set and sound design. And as always, Northern Ballet achieved this effortlessly. Sets and design (involving a crocodile worthy of a place in Jurassic Park), are stylish, sophisticated and engrossing, with a credible balance of carefully crafted detail and tasteful simplicity. Rather than heavy clunky sets constricting the performers, these serve more as necessary contextual settings that instead emphasise and reify the characters, from The Jolly Roger Pirate Ship to The Mermaids’ Lagoon. The layered jungle setting is particularly impressive, as is the soft sophistication of the Darling’s bedroom which opens and closes the performance, with its interactive iconic windows opening out to the enigmas of the night sky.


Hannah Bateman as Mrs Darling. Photo Lauren Godfrey (400x242)

[Image courtesy of Northern Ballet]


All performers exhibit exquisite capabilities both in their dance and the embodiment of their characters- acting through the discipline of ballet rather than merely performing. Pan capturing his shadow was as convincing as they come, as was the chemistry between himself and an excellent Wendy, with its hints of a brewing romance. Tinkerbell, through her unflinching mannerisms and expression manifests all that we know and love about the character; both her loyal charms and jealous mischief. Not to mention of course good old Hook, arguably one of the most famous (and dare I say adored) villains of all time providing infectious humour in all the right moments and quantities.


Rachael Gillespie as Tinkerbell. Photo Lauren Godfrey (400x267)

[Image courtesy of Northern Ballet]


Now it wouldn’t really be Peter Pan without some degree of flying. This production is most certainly not without its moments of ethereal splendour. A fantastic fairy-dust fuelled flight through the night to Neverland sees the performers soar towards the ceiling and glide to and fro with weightless ease. Similarly in the Darling’s bedroom, furniture, the floor and indeed other people are utilised as springboards, propelling characters into gravity-defying rolls and turns of such grace and delicacy that will boggle the mind. Leaps and jumps are of cinematic quality and flowing flight, both through the air and across the stage floor.

A bit more umph and hyperbole from the score would have been welcome at certain points, particularly in terms of playfully emphasising Hook’s (comically flawed) villainy, but with children and adults alike laughing and gasping in awe, there was most assuredly magic in the air. Quite a gem- you’ll be hooked.

Dan Newton


Peter Pan is showing at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday 20th December 2014
Tickets are available at or by calling the box office on 0844 848 2700.


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