1984 at The Palace Theatre
1984 is one of those classic books, that is just as famous for George Orwell’s predictions and the way the Media has referenced them (Big Brother, Room 101, CCTV) as it is for it’s quality.
Northern Ballet have produced their vision of this famous book and adapted it, as a dance piece. This proves a difficult concept to grasp, as this piece of literature is so well known, that audiences may be reticent about seeing their beloved book reduced in this way.
But, from the off, this ballet seduces the audience through the power of dance. The characters we all know are here, including protagonist Winston Smith (Tobias Batley), as the heart and soul of the piece. Here, he is an everyman trying to do right by his bosses and the people around him.
He begins an illicit love affair with Julia (played by Martha Leebolt) and this is when this beautiful ballet works. Some of the greatest ballets deal with forbidden love or conflict and 1984 has these themes in abundance.
Batley makes an engaging Winston, who has his head turned by fellow rebel Julia. Leebolt is an enigmatic dancer and she is just as effective dancing alone, as she is in a duo with her stage lover. Some of the group dances are incredibly evocative too. They represent oppression and how people either rise up or follow orders during a time of turmoil.
The live music works a treat and provides the dancers with a scintillating soundtrack. Northern Ballet’s set design sadly, lacks the depth required to completely immerse you in this world of paranoia and fear.
If this is your first time to a ballet, 1984 offers you a treat – as it is not a book that you would expect to see through the medium of dance. It’s a shame that Jonathan Watkins does not do more with the themes and incorporate some sound to shake things up.
But, even so – this is a show worth seeing, as it makes a change from endless new productions of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.
1984 is at the Palace Theatre until 17 October.
Photo take by Emma Kauldhar
Glenn Meads for Canal St Online