Saturday, 26 January 2019

REVIEW: Beauty And The Beast - The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

It had been a while since I’d seen a ballet, my last being Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’, so Ballet Theatre UK had a lot to live up to. They did not disappoint. ‘Beauty And The Beast’ is the 14th full length ballet that Ballet UK have created, under the leadership of Christopher Moore, the Artistic Director. He has chosen the original story by Gabrielle – Suzanne Bardot de Villeneuve for inspiration, adding his own twist to the tale. This version of Beauty And The Beast has an old merchant living with three daughters, the eldest two being somewhat spoilt and vain, the youngest an innocent rose. In fact, on a trip to the port this is the only thing she requests from her father and the more well-known aspect of the story continues from there.

As a touring performance to smaller venues Martyn Plan’s set was simple, yet used effectively. Gates on wheels that were creatively managed around the space by the dancers, a full-length screen at the back to depict the woods. Ryan Phillip’s lighting greatly helped in setting the mood and atmosphere. Dark purples and greens for the woods, bright colours for Beauty’s scenes of happiness at home with her father. Lighting from the wings to create shadows and mystery.

Daniel Hope’s costumes were exquisite. Each one displaying both character and grandeur you would expect from a ballet. The colour and choice of material really aiding in portraying the characters social class, from the brown cotton costume for the father, to the net and sequins of the Enchantress in black and bronze. No little girl was let down either when Beauty entered the stage in the traditional gold costume that she wears to dance with the Beast. Beautifully made. The Beast’s mask was highly effective and well thought out and expertly crafted. No mean feat when the dancer is jumping and pirouetting!

Christopher Moore chose Antonin Dvorak’s suites for this production. The music really taking us on a journey of intrigue and love. I was swept away and completely engrossed and I felt that the music choice was an exceptional one, adding in sound effects, such as the thunder and wolves.

Now, I will admit, I am no dance aficionado, but I was completely mesmerised by Miriam Konnerth who portrayed the Enchantress. Her poise and grace were evident for all to see. It was effortless. Every time she entered the space you were captivated. I was also impressed with Ewan Hambelton who portrayed the father, his stamina was amazing, at one point lifting at least six dancers who he was ‘battling’ with as wolves. The ‘fighting’ sequence alone made me tired just observing it! Erin Flaherty danced as Beauty very well, my only wish is that she expressed herself more through her facial expressions. At times she did this well, but she wasn’t consistent and I felt like it stopped me at times from sympathising with the character. Oliver Cooper as the Beast was fantastic. The other dancers contributed greatly to the performance, especially the two who portrayed the spoilt sisters, they were particularly good.

I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and at fifty minutes per half it kept the younger members of the audience engaged, my daughter being one of them. This was her first ballet and she was transfixed from start to finish, asking at the end when she could come to see another one. A great compliment in itself. I left the theatre wanting to see more from this company and after a hard week at work I felt calm and serene from watching and listening to something so pleasing.

Ballet UK celebrated their 10th anniversary this year. I hope they have many more years in front of them. Well done!

Reviewer - Cathy Owen
on - 25/1/19

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