★★★| Northern Ballet’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
Based on the best-selling book, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas tells the story of two boys; Bruno, the son of a concentration camp Commandant and Shmuel, a young Jewish prisoner; as they befriend each other from opposing sides of the barbed wire fence.
Whilst a ballet based on the Holocaust may not seem an obvious choice, Northern Ballet’s production is well conceived. Utilising a muted colour palette alongside an original score which is laden in strings and piano to create a real sense of foreboding; the ballet is surprisingly well paced and despite its setting, manages to find some gentle and rather tender moments amongst the difficult subject matter, nowhere more evident than in the burgeoning friendship between the two boys.
Never straying very far from the original source material of the children’s book, Daniel de Andrade’s choreography is straightforward and uncomplicated; conveying the narrative without fuss and providing a clearly defined demarcation between different characters and scenes, which ultimately leads to the production of a ballet which is readily accessible to the whole family.
Matthew Koon impresses with his portrayal of Bruno, conveying the character’s innocence and bringing to his performance a child-like vivaciousness, which contrasts nicely with Filippo Di Vilo’s suitably understated portrayal of the hopelessness of Shmuel. However, it is Mlindi Kulashe’s performance as The Fury, which stands out; bringing a menacing presence and an incredible suppleness which comes across in his technically impressive performance.
Given the setting of the story, the ballet has the potential to be divisive in terms of its appropriateness; but Northern Ballet have produced a rather simplistically presented piece which handles matters with sensitivity and respect, and brings with it a genuine emotional punch which is derived from its narrative and characterisations.
The show had its world premiere at CAST in Doncaster (www.castindoncaster.com) before commencing its national tour calling at Wolverhampton, Leicester, Richmond, Aylesbury, Stoke, Bromley. Leeds and Hull. Visit www.northernballet.com for further details.