Four star review of Northern Ballet's Beauty & The Beast

A scene from Beauty & The Beast by Northern Ballet. Picture: Tristram KentonA scene from Beauty & The Beast by Northern Ballet. Picture: Tristram Kenton
A scene from Beauty & The Beast by Northern Ballet. Picture: Tristram Kenton
Stage: Beauty & The BeastLeeds Grand TheatreYvette Huddleston 4/5

Northern Ballet’s enchanting production premiered in 2011, choreographed by David Nixon, and has been a popular part of the company’s repertoire ever since.

Revived last autumn after a break of seven years, it now makes a welcome return to Leeds Grand Theatre. The story of the vain, unkind prince who is taught a lesson in humility by two fairies who transform him into a wild beast until he can learn to love and be loved in return will be familiar to many and showcases the company’s peerless skill at storytelling through dance.

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Beauty (Saeka Shirai) is a gentle soul, who lives with her older sisters Chantelle (Harriet Marden) and Isabelle (Aerys Merrill) and their widowed father (Bruno Serraclara). Money is tight and things are not helped by Chantelle and Isabelle’s prodigious shopping habit which eventually results in the family losing all their possessions and their home.

A scene from Beauty & The Beast by Northern Ballet. Picture: Tristram KentonA scene from Beauty & The Beast by Northern Ballet. Picture: Tristram Kenton
A scene from Beauty & The Beast by Northern Ballet. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Meanwhile arrogant prince Orian (Jackson Dwyer) has troubles of his own, since his transformation, and is now living in his castle as a lonely beast (Harris Beattie).

After he confronts and threatens the girls’ father in the forest, Beauty agrees to go and live with the Beast in order to save her father’s life. And so the path to the prince’s redemption begins.

The music – a lovely combination of 19th and 20th century French and Russian music from composers including Debussy, Bizet and Glazunov – is played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia. Their beautiful playing enhances the performance and enriches the audience experience immeasurably.

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Duncan Hayler’s excellent set design renders the Beast’s dark, shadowy and sinister castle brilliantly and the clever use of mirrors highlights the story’s powerful message of beauty being much more than skin deep. Alongside breathtaking dancing from the cast, the characterisation is thoughtful and nuanced and the narrative pace carefully calibrated. Bursts of energetic physicality enliven the bigger set pieces while elegant solos and tender pas de deux slow the action down and create moments of affecting emotional connection.

To June 9.

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