Everyman Cinema, Leeds


Reviewed by MIKE DIXON

First Direct, sponsors of taking Northern Ballet from stage to screen, must be loudly applauded for bringing this outstanding dance company to a wider public through cinema performances. Cathy Marston’s recent ballet Victoria is full of incident and showcases the outstanding talents of the dancers of Northern Ballet, in particular Abigail Prudames as Queen Victoria, young and old, Pippa Moore as Princess Beatrice, the beating heart of the ballet, Joseph Taylor as Prince Albert, Miki Akuta as Young Beatrice and Mlindi Kulashe as John Brown. The total involvement of every dancer on stage, no matter how small the role, is evident in every frame of the film. The almost haphazard, pick ‘n mix dramaturgy lacks a coherent narrative line, and some audience members and critics found the plethora of named characters a confusing feature of the stage production. I had high expectations that the use of tighter shots and close-ups would remedy this aspect of the ballet and make the story line clearer. Unfortunately, Ross MacGibbon, the director, failed to familiarise himself with the production before filming it, and the result is rather too many close-ups at points when  

some of the best choreography for the ensemble is being performed, and some important dramatic moments are missed entirely. One positive aspect of the use of close-up is always to focus on smaller details and here we see the commitment of Prudames and Taylor to their roles and their ardent pas de deux gain in erotic intensity. Sean Bates as Liko, the husband of the younger Beatrice, cuts a sympathetic figure, and Riko Ito is a dynamic Lord Melbourne. Mlindi Kulashe, as he always does, makes something unique and distinctive as a cast-against-type John Brown, who meets his end (ignoring history) as the victim of an assassin’s bullet! The glorious legacy of this film is to record the final created role for Pippa Moore as Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter. Moore is a consummate artist and each time the camera searches her face it finds the appropriate emotion pinpointed and highlighted in theatrical detail. She never puts a foot wrong, physically or metaphorically. She has the ability to convey what she is thinking and feeling through her eyes: a huge gift in a theatre auditorium but a greater gift when magnified by the medium of the zoom lens. 

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