Northern Ballet: Victoria
- Kelly Apter
- 12 April 2019
Cathy Marston perfectly captures the complexity of Queen Victoria's relationship with her youngest child, in this dynamic new ballet
A word to the wise: if you're going to see Northern Ballet's new biographical ballet, Victoria, try to read the programme notes before the lights go down. Otherwise you'll spend the first 30 minutes trying to work out who everyone is and what they're doing. Which, in itself, is not unenjoyable – but as with any story, to engage emotionally you need to know who you're rooting for.
In this instance it's Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest child, left behind to live with her widowed mother long after her eight older siblings had fled the coup. Choreographer, Cathy Marston and dramaturg Uzma Hameed have worked hard to cherry pick the pertinent moments from Victoria and Beatrice's life, and they certainly had their work cut out.
A little confusingly, the first half of the show actually focuses on the second half of Victoria's life – and vice versa. But what this gives us, is a wonderful moment at the end of Act One, when Beatrice recognises she has essentially become an echo of her mother (a widow dressed in black) and the anger that realisation brings. Followed by a beautiful section in Act Two, when Victoria's mourning robes are peeled away to reveal a youthful 18-year-old about to become Queen and meet her beloved Albert.
Victoria wrote 122 diaries during her lifetime, and it's this that Marston and Hameed focus on, to great effect. Inheriting them after her mother's death, Beatrice reduced that number to 111, essentially editing out all the bits she didn't like before publication. And so we see Victoria's passionate exchanges with Albert literally ripped from the diary, so too her relationship with John Brown after Albert died and more.
Throughout, Marston's choreography is a clever reflection of royal life – hard-edged and tough in the public eye, softer and just as damaged as the rest of us in private. Small touches, such as a cluster of hands folding above Victoria's head to depict her crown at the coronation, ensure the movement language is just as interesting and engaging as the monarch.
Reviewed at Edinburgh Festival Theatre.