Northern Ballet has returned to Norwich Theatre Royal with another impressive ballet: A Christmas Carol, which has been revived for the 21st time under the artistic direction of David Nixon.
Photo: Bill Cooper
It is a valuable experience to be able to watch another dance piece that doesn’t fall into the classic repertoire of ballet, but offers ballet goers a fresh piece of theatre by taking literary classics and transporting them into the dance world.
As the audience waited in anticipation for Christmas to arrive early, the sound of a bustling Victorian street drifted from the stage. Through the thin veil curtain, Christmas lights shone and the silhouettes of people milling about could be seen. The scene began with a dramatic funeral march for Scrooge’s old business partner Marley. From there the audience were taken on a magical journey into the world of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
Dickens’ Victorian world came alive through the impressive costumes designed by Olivier Award winning Lez Brotherston. The true poverty and hardship of Dickens’ novel also came clearly across through the cleverly designed sets.
The ballet had a wonderful element of humour to it, from the comical slaps Scrooge (Sebastian Loe) readily dished out to his clerk (Matthew Broadbent) for his exuberant dances, to the hilarious coupling of Mr and Mrs Fezziwig (Ashley Dixon and Victoria Sibson). The ball scene of Scrooge’s past was one of the most enjoyable moments of the ballet. The audience enthusiastically shared in the merriment of the party laughing whenever Mr and Mrs Fezziwig amusingly tried to join in with the dance of the graceful party goers.
The emotionally evoking pas de deux between the young Scrooge (Tobias Batley) and Belle Fezziwig (Martha Leebolt) was a memorable moment in the ballet. The two dancers were perfectly matched; her sweet vulnerability to his cold strength, captivating the audience with their expressive dancing almost as one, where their strong technique was evident.
Sebastian Loe, who danced in the role of Scrooge, did exceptionally well in taking the audience on the journey of Scrooge’s development from the callous, greedy miser into a loveable and joyous character. His transformation into the new Scrooge at the end with his lively dancing and impressive leaps was a delight to watch.
The festive score performed by the live orchestra of Northern Ballet Sinfonia brought the spirit of Christmas into the hearts of all watching, with some audience members humming along to familiar Christmas carols such as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The combination of Carl David’s score with the singing of carols by the dancers worked especially well, and although songs are rarely used in ballets this was a moment where it added to the atmosphere and would have felt lacking without it.
A Christmas Carol is worth viewing by any lover of ballet and theatre. It has all the elements one could wish to see, from comedy, love and tragedy, to moments of suspense such as the rattling chains of the ghosts and the dancing of lost souls around scrooge (almost reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Thriller). The only problem with the ballet is that it is not being shown a little nearer to Christmas!