Choreographer Cathy Marston on Victoria: 'It's probably enough material for at least ten ballets'
- Kelly Apter
- 8 April 2019
Northern Ballet's new biopic brings the sensational story of Victoria to life in dance
'When you look at Victoria as a person, the empire, the reign, the queen, the mother, the wife; it's almost 100 years of world history,' says choreographer Cathy Marston, describing the challenge of making her new biographical dance for Northern Ballet. 'It's probably enough material for at least ten ballets.'
Sadly, Marston was only commissioned to create one, so we'll have to make do with that. To be fair she's packed a lot in, having worked alongside dramaturg Uzma Hameed to cherry-pick the most important people and aspects of Queen Victoria's life. 'Uzma and I wrote anything that we found interesting – whether that be an image, a historical point, a character or an event – on Post-it notes and stuck them all over my living room,' recalls Marston. 'From there, we slowly began to group them together and filter them down. We couldn't include everything, but there are certain characters like Albert who are really crucial, as well as her nine children.'
One child in particular sits squarely at the centre of Marston's ballet. Victoria's youngest child, Princess Beatrice, was four years old when her father died, and spent much of her childhood wrapped in her mother's grief. 'During my research I read that when Albert died, Victoria ran to Beatrice's bedroom, gathered her sleeping daughter in her arms, wrapped her in Albert's dressing gown and took her into her bed,' says Marston. 'Beatrice was only a young child at the time and after that Victoria never really let go of her. After Victoria's death, Beatrice took on the task of editing the diary her mother kept throughout her life. This struck me as interesting because Beatrice had only really known her mother as the widow in black. Her journey re-discovering her mother must have been incredibly emotional, and imagining this felt inspiring to me.'
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 10–Sat 13 Apr.