Theatre review - The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Northern Ballet
PUBLISHED: 21:38 30 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:40 31 May 2017
© Emma Kauldhar
The film adaptation gave a good account of the bestselling book, can Northern Ballet do the same? Review by Paul Szabo
It was with some initial trepidation that I arrived at the world premiere of Northern Ballet’s new production, as I wondered whether or not a ballet about events during the Holocaust would be appropriate or actually work.
This new production is based on the children’s book The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by Irish novelist, John Boyne which tells the story of Bruno, the son of a concentration camp Commandant, who forms an unlikely friendship with a young Jewish boy, Shmuel, a prisoner who sits on the other side of the barbed wire fence.
You can always rely on Northern Ballet to provide quality in terms of the dancing within their productions, and this show was no exception. Matthew Koon plays the role of Bruno with a wide eyed innocence, leaping into the air with aplomb; which sat nicely against Filippo Di Vilo’s understated performance as Shmuel. But it is Mlindi Kulashe’s performance as The Fury which really stood out, as he slinked across the stage in his full face mask and flowing black robes, bending and twisting his body into the stuff of nightmares.
But amongst the sadness, there are some genuinely touching scenes. As the boys play together, the stage transforms from dull greys and dark colours to being awash with a brilliant blue, making you feel that somewhere amongst everything unfolding onstage, there is some hope, happiness and humanity.
What we are left with is a ballet with a very relevant story (and one which is pretty much intact from the book in its entirety) and a production which is suitable for all, including families and ballet novices. By the time the curtain fell, I was content that my trepidation was well and truly unfounded, given that the production handles matters with sensitivity but still provides a genuine emotional punch.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas tour returns to Yorkshire in the autumn
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds Tue 5 – Sat 9 Sep 2017,
Hull New Theatre, Wed 18 – Sat 21 Oct 2017.