Review: Northern Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast at Mayflower Theatre

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Fantastic

A fantastic performance by all, with Riku Ito's performance as 'The Beast' stealing the show.

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30th November saw the opening night for Northern Ballet’s short stint performing Beauty and the Beast at Mayflower Theatre. Such a tale can be difficult to successfully pull off with no spoken words in the performance, but not only did Northern Ballet demonstrate it to be possible, but made into a complete success. The dancers spoke the language of movement, and the audience heard every bit of it. With music including Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’, and fantastic set and lighting designs by Duncan Hayler and Tim Mitchell, it was unlikely that the performance would be anything less than spectacular.

Image: Northern Ballet. Ashley Dixon as the Beast in Beauty & the Beast.

Image: Northern Ballet. Ashley Dixon as the Beast in Beauty & the Beast.

David Nixon OBE, artistic director of the performance, undoubtedly ensured that the performance was of an exceptionally high standard; his previous productions include The Great Gatsby and Cinderella. A large part of the performance’s success is derived from the fact that different ballerinas play the Prince Orian/Beast role, which really gives rise to the both the mental and physical transformation the character undergoes when La Fée Magnifique casts the spell upon him.

It has to be said, Riku Ito’s performance as The Beast was the real show-stopper. His exhilarating performance steals the show. His technical skill, both in the art of drama and dance, is of such a high calibre, he is able to take the audience with him through his frustration and anger with each elegant, yet violent, stride he makes across the stage. Most captivating of all Iko’s performances is at the end of the first act, when The Beast falls down a tunnel of despair, as he cannot help but frighten and repulse Belle. This scene took the audience through a range of emotions – the scene began with The Beast and Belle having dinner, yet The Beast visibly had no table manners and proceeded to rather grossly mime eating Belle’s dinner as well – a humorous touch executed tastefully. The scene’s dark turn, reflected in the lighting of sole spotlight, coupled well with a black and white effect on The Beast, and as the curtains closed so only he was visible, his increased despondency was apparent. Ito travelled the stage, taking the audience through his inner turmoil, with his anger and frustration played out through elegant, yet lashing actions. My one, dance-based critique, is that several of Prince’s friends were slightly out of sync at various points in their performance, but this certainly did not detract from the overall impression of the performance.

Image: Northern Ballet. Dreda Blow as Belle.

Image: Northern Ballet. Dreda Blow as Belle.

Fascinatingly, the costumes were used to reflect the character’s personality as much as possible. Julie Anderson, as costume designer, has made statements saying that Belle’s outfits were deliberately simple yet elegant, in order to portray her as the character with the purest heart and make her romance believable. In comparison to Isabelle and Chantelle’s rather garish and fussy outfits, Belle immediately was shown to be not only beautiful in character, but also in nature. Additionally, the direction Anderson took with The Beast’s costume was interesting – instead of using a large extra costume, Ito wore a nature-based costume, to remind the audience that he really is beastly, with his base-instincts prevailing.

The final scene was the best of the performance, with the many of the dancers on stage celebrating Belle and Prince Orian’s marriage. The elegant costumes and joyous music by Saint-Saëns lifted the mood back to an uplifting finishing point. Overall, it was a truly wonderful performance.

Beauty and the Beast is at Mayflower Theatre until tomorrow (3rd December). You can still find tickets here.

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Law student at the University of Southampton.

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