Revel in a royal visit when Northern Ballet brings its latest ambitious narrative ballet, Victoria, to Milton Keynes Theatre next week.
The title character is, of course, Queen Victoria and the production’s inaugural year in Northern Ballet’s repertoire coincides with the 200th anniversary of her birth.
Queen Victoria reigned for sixty-three years, from June 1837 until January 1901. She was the longest-reigning monarch in British history until her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, surpassed her in 2015 . Throughout her life, Victoria was famously “not amused”. Ironically, she remains a figure of fascination and inspiration to the people who produce our entertainment today.
So much so, in fact, that when David Nixon OBE, artistic director of Northern Ballet, asked internationally acclaimed choreographer Cathy Marston to help him commemorate Victoria through dance, Marston turned to ITV’s lavish television drama (also called Victoria).
Cathy Marston said: “At that time, I hadn’t watched the ITV series – unlike the rest of the country, it seems – so I took the weekend to binge watch the first series. I was about halfway through when I decided to say yes! The subject is so open, and, beyond the title, David didn’t give me any parameters, so I was really pleased to be able to choose the direction that I wanted to take.”
Marston, who also created Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre, has embraced the freedom Nixon afforded her to inventively reveal the woman behind the veil in Victoria.
The full-length ballet unfolds to a completely original score by composer Philip Feeney (whose previous orchestral works for Northern Ballet include Jane Eyre and Cinderella) and promises to reveal the passion, tragedy and fierce devotion that made Victoria who she was.
Victoria’s life amounted to more than eighty years of world history. Furthermore, an exploration of her ongoing legacy requires consideration of her as a woman, as a queen, as a wife, and as a mother (to no less than nine children).
Consequently, Marston’s Victoria tells the queen’s story through the eyes of her youngest child, and closest companion, Beatrice.
The narrative begins with Queen Victoria’s deathbed, where Beatrice relives her memories of her mother as a secluded widow. When Beatrice is later entrusted to transcribe the intimate diaries that Victoria leaves behind, she discovers the assorted, often conflicting, faces of an elusive empress.
As Beatrice reads her mother’s diaries, she unearths numerous revelations – from the truth about Victoria’s challenging relationship with her own mother, to her marriage to Prince Albert and her devastation at his untimely death. Left to edit her mother’s story, will Beatrice rewrite the past or make peace with the memory of her mother?
Witness history in the making when Northern Ballet dances this epic new production on its world premiere tour.
*Publicity images for Victoria show Northern Ballet dancers Abigail Prudames, Joseph Taylor and Pippa Moore; the creators of the roles of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Princess Beatrice. Photography by Guy Farrow.
*Image from the launch of Northern Ballet’s Victoria at Harewood House shows Northern Ballet dancers Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Photography by Justin Slee.
Northern Ballet’s Victoria visits Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday 30 April to Saturday 4 May 2019.
This preview is also featured on Total MK.
Update 2 May 2019: Read my review of Northern Ballet’s Victoria.
Georgina Butler is an editor, a dance writer and a ballet teacher.