REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2013

 

The Northern Ballet take on The Great Gatsby is a stylish adaptation of a classic novel. 

I got my invitation to the “roaring twenties” and I loved it!

 

The heady, indulgent days of the 1920’s are captured within the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby and Northern Ballet is currently bringing the era of the moment to life at Milton Keynes Theatre.

Everyone is going gaga for Gatsby – with the resurgence influencing fashion, making its mark in Hollywood and inspiring new London fringe theatre shows – and the inventive dance company’s latest blockbuster adaptation combines all the glamour and opulence of the period. The story focuses on American life straight after the First World War, when the United States and much of the world experienced huge economic expansion. This surging economy meant easy money, hard drinking (flying in the face of Prohibition) and lavish parties.

Peripheral narrator Nick Carraway moves east to New York’s Long Island in the spring of 1922. Here, he rents a house in a wealthy but unfashionable area populated by the ‘new rich’ (those who have recently acquired their money, lack established social connections and are prone to garish displays of wealth). Soon, he is drawn to mysterious neighbour Jay Gatsby – a millionaire with a secret past and a penchant for lavish parties and beautiful women.

Nick spends time with his second cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan and meets Tom’s mistress Myrtle (married to mechanic George Wilson). Our protagonist then has a tentative romance with pro-golfer Jordan Baker and gets to know Gatsby – reflecting upon just how empty life among the wealthy can be. Ultimately, behind the optimism and frivolity of the decadent jazz age, hypocrisy and shallow recklessness pervade.

Artistic Director David Nixon had the surely daunting task of translating the much-lauded book to ballet. He is passionate about creating innovative full-length ballets and attracting new audiences. Consequently the Company is known for its stunning story-telling (past successes have included adaptations of Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast and Wuthering Heights).

 

Northern Ballet dancers in The Great Gatsby (photo by Bill Cooper).

 

View Post

REVIEW: ‘Hairspray’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2013

 

BIG HAIR, BIG HEART – Swinging ’60s show Hairspray has it all.

 

“If you can spray it and lock it, you can take off in a rocket” trills an enigmatic TV host in the latest musical to take to the stage at Milton Keynes Theatre. Hairspray certainly delivers a powerful performance.

Amidst a stage bathed in a pink glow, we are welcomed to the ’60s (June 1962 to be precise) in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, we follow the bold journey taken by a larger-than-life high school student whose sheer passion for dance sees her going all out to fulfil her dream to star on local teenage dance television programme, The Corny Collins Show (based on the real-life TV hit, The Buddy Deane Show).

The curtain rises as “pleasantly plump” Tracy Turnblad (Italia Conti graduate Freya Sutton, making her professional theatre debut) muses about her fondness for her hometown, her love of dancing and her desire to be famous. Tracy is all about big – big hair, big personality and big heart – and she is radically open to new ideas and new styles.

At school, Tracey receives a warning about her inappropriate hair height and her openness to others sees her embrace everyone (from “the rats on the street” to “the flasher who lives next door” and “the bum on his bar room stool”).

She is the perfect heroine, then, for this musical as Hairspray is a social commentary of the injustices experienced by sections of American society in the 1960s. Through the toe-tapping song and dance numbers, the serious issues of racism, “size-ism” and difference are addressed.

 

Hairspray the musical. 'Good Morning Baltimore'.

 

View Post

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, January 2013

 

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is at Milton Keynes Theatre this week and the innovative choreographer has added some bite to the ballet classic.

Matthew Bourne made his name with bold re-imaginings of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (his was set in an orphanage and titled Nutcracker!) and Swan Lake (complete with a mesmerising ensemble of male swans). Seventeen years after the premiere of Swan Lake, Bourne’s company, New Adventures, is completing the Tchaikovsky trilogy with Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, a gothic interpretation of the Charles Perrault fairytale.

Storytellers and choreographers have adapted the potent plot before. Versions of the story explore the themes of good versus evil, the beauty of youth and transformation, the power of evil curses and the all-pervading idea of love conquering all. Walt Disney’s 1959 film sharpened the original narrative to create more of an ongoing love story. Somewhat more controversially, in 1985, avant-garde Swedish choreographer Mats Ek cast Aurora as a junkie, with a syringe being the cause of a pricked finger.

In Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, we still encounter the poisoned rose thorn that audiences expect – but the love story turns supernatural as vampires feature in the scenario.

 

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty.

View Post

REVIEW: ‘Cinderella’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, December 2012

 

I HAD A BALL AT CINDERELLA AND YOU WILL TOO!

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without some panto magic and Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre pulls out all the stops to cast its spell over audiences.

I was delighted to attend press night for the annual pantomime at the new city’s incredibly popular theatre – particularly after having interviewed leading lady Anna Williamson (Cinderella) and the multi-talented Kev Orkian (Buttons) a couple of weeks ago.

 

Cinderella programme

 

On arrival at the theatre, I was pleased to see audience members of all ages (from the very young to those in the ‘grannies and granddads’ age bracket) milling around, enthusiastically awaiting the beginning of an evening of festive sparkle. Carol singers from Arts1 School of Performance filled the steps of the theatre, helping to set the mood and providing distraction from the bitterly cold weather outside.

Meanwhile, excited youngsters queued up to bag their very own “bundle” of glowing goodies (complete with fairy wings and magic wand in the “Cinderella Bundle”, and different shaped light-up treats and magic wand in the “Buttons’ Bundle” and “Baron’s Bundle”, respectively).

Taking a seat in the auditorium, Christmas songs were playing to get everyone in the mood and the safety curtain was lifted up to reveal a stunning purple and pink themed Cinderella backdrop, showcasing lit up candelabras and swirls and flowers.

From the off, traditional good cheer fills the stage as the well-loved fairytale is brought to life in Eric Potts’ sharply written take on a classic story.
View Post

REVIEW: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, October 2012

 

The Phantom of the Opera is here in the new city this week, filling the auditorium of Milton Keynes Theatre with a chilling presence!

The West-End blockbuster is now into its 26th year and Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenal musical was especially created for the 25th anniversary national tour.

As I had hoped, last night’s performance was spine-tingling. Indeed, from the moment the glittering chandelier was unveiled just above our heads, the audience knew that a spectacular evening of entertainment lay ahead.

 

The Phantom of the Opera.

View Post