Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dracula 'Northern Ballet Theatre' (2005)

At the opening night and Saturday night Dracula was danced by
regular guest Jimmy Orrante, with Keiko Amemori as Mina, Georgina
May as Lucy, Patrick Howell as Harker, Hiro Takahashi as Arthur
Holmwood and Darren Goldsmith as Dr John Seward. Sebastian Loe
was Renfield.

For the Saturday matinee, David Kierce was Dracula to Natalie
Leftwich’s Mina, Martha Leebolt’s Lucy. Tobias Batley was Harker
with Darren Goldsmith as Holmwood and Kenneth Tindall was
Seward. Patrick Howell was Renfield. Stephen Wheeler performed
Van Helsing at all the performances I saw.

The piece starts with a coffin coming up from the ground and
Dracula emerging naked and walking to the back of the stage.
The action then moves on to Harker and his trip across
Transylvania. I think the coach and horses are cleverly realised,
realistic and spooky. At the castle we see Dracula wanting to
drink the blood of Harker and wrestling with his feelings. He
then sees the photograph of Mina and enters Harker’s mind
to find out more. There is a tussle between Dracula and Harker
before the Brides arrive and Harker is bewitched by them.
Harker also sees Dracula crawling down the castle wall.
We then see Dracula heading off to England in his box of
sacred earth.

Meanwhile Lucy is torn between Holmwood and Seward,
eventually choosing Holmwood. Seward returns to his
sanatorium and is studying his case notes on Renfield,
who is caged.

Dracula sates himself with Lucy in a churchyard before her
engagement to Holmwood. He arrives at the engagement
party and sees Mina – Lucy is forgotten for the moment.
Lucy makes a show of herself and everyone dashes off stage
after her, leaving Dracula alone with Lucy until Harker appears.
He then goes back to Lucy, who subsequently seems to die
at the end of Act 1.

Act 1 is fairly slow moving and some of the changes between
scenes are a little slow and could detract from the flow of the
action. There is a real contrast between Dracula’s treatment of
Lucy and Mina – with Lucy he is wild and full of lust and with
Mina he is gentle and really seems to care for her. The set is
fairly stark but extremely effective.

In Act 2, the action really hots up. Van Helsing had been brought
in to try and help Lucy. At her funeral he sees her rise from the
grave after the others have left and he persuades the others that
she needs to be staked.

They then go and try to find Dracula, little realising that he has
gained access to Mina and that they are desperately attracted to
each other. The hunters return and Dracula flees. There is then
the race against time across Transylvania leading to the final

David Nixon has conceived this piece very much as a chamber
ballet, only using a corps in the engagement party. All the other
scenes use only the main characters. The work has a tense, almost
claustrophobic atmosphere.

I found all the pdd compelling and relevant and the pdd between
Mina and Dracula in Act 2 is just stunning – worth the entrance
money on its own! There is some good ensemble work for the
male protagonists.

Dracula wears a gloriously full cape that seems to take on a life
of its own and becomes a powerful bat motif. The mostly-fabulous
costumes were designed by the multi-talented David Nixon and Ali
Allen did the atmospherically minimalist set. My one niggle is the
trousers that Dracula wears – glam-rockers The Sweet came to mind!

The dancers really threw themselves into the performances. NBT
specialises in dancers who are strong actors and these performances
proved that. The good thing about seeing several performances and
different casts is being able to see the different interpretations of the
roles. For example, Georgina May was a very young and flirtatious
Lucy while Martha Leebolt came over as being more worldly in her
dealings with her suitors. Both abandoned themselves to Dracula
with a shocking degree of lasciviousness.

It was nice seeing the younger dancers getting their big chance.
Sebastian Loe was superb as the mad, bug-eating Renfield. I
overheard someone in the audience describing him as the new
Jeremy Kerridge – very high praise indeed and well-deserved.
Tobias Batley was really naïve and totally terrified by Dracula
as Harker. Darren Goldsmith is such an elegant dancer, really
on the top of his form, and it was good to see him performing
both Holmwood and Seward and bringing something different
to both of them.

Both Jimmy Orrante and David Kierce were marvellously sinister
at Dracula, both handling the enormous cape really well – making
it come alive.

Keiko Amemori was lithe and sinuous as Mina, with Natalie Leftwich
giving a more innocent performance.

Northern Ballet Theatre
Ballet Magazine

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