Review: Northern Ballet Theatre in Hamlet at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 22-26 Apr 08
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Monday 2 June 2008

The continuing desire for Northern Ballet Theatre to create full length works is admirable. Both adding to ballet repertoire and broadening audiences David Nixon’s latest offering, Hamlet, played to eager audiences at Sadler’s Wells. Shakespeare’s complex narrative, put into a new context, left many audience members a little baffled – however by viewing the work as a new interpretation of an old theme, the true craftsmanship of Nixon’s Hamlet shone through. It has to be said that Nixon’s Hamlet is a purist’s nightmare. The character of Hamlet, played by a French soldier transported us to occupied Paris during World War Two, with Philip Feeney’s score conjuring up the era. Added to this the programme notes were extremely valuable in order to fully comprehend the storyline, however the themes of loss and revenge remain the corner stones of this work. Arguably over populated, the first act introduced the leading characters in a flurry of choreography, showcasing Nixon’s ability to develop strong partnerships and enjoyable duets. The tender duet between Hamlet and Ophelia clearly showed true attention to detail, giving the audience clear insight into the characters union. The dance of madness stood out in the second act. Expertly performed by Georgina May, the solo coupled solid choreography with a sensitive delivery. Choreographically the violence was outstanding, with sequences rivalling many cinematic versions. You cannot escape the image of Mel Brooks The Producers, flooding your mind when the German soldiers goose-step across the stage, however the inclusion of these characters was essential to both the storyline and image of occupied France. Choreographically, Hamlet is tailor made for the company, playing to all of their strengths. By moving away from the narrative of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this new ballet, of the same titles brilliance shines through.

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