Northern Ballet production of Cleopatra tours UK
A preview of the new dance production from the acclaimed company
From Peter Pan to Dangerous Liaisons, Northern Ballet (formerly Northern Ballet Theatre) knows how to turn a good book into a great dance. With new production, Cleopatra, however, the company is heading into uncharted territory. For, while the movers and shakers of the Roman Empire have many column inches devoted to them, not all of it is helpful in terms of getting into a role.
‘In the past, we’ve worked from books or plays, where literally everything is written down for us,’ says dancer Toby Batley, who plays Cleopatra’s lover, Mark Antony. ‘But, while there is a lot of information about Cleopatra and Mark Antony, it’s mainly just historical facts. So, in a way, that’s made it a bit freer because you can’t really go wrong – but it’s also harder because there’s not so much to go by.’
The show’s scenario has been written by Northern Ballet’s artistic director, David Nixon, composer Claude-Michel Schönberg (of Les Miserables fame) and director Patricia Doyle. It was their job to bring one of the most famous women in history back to life – and give Batley something to build his rendition of Mark Antony on.
‘He was a pretty wild character,’ he says, ‘very brave and really sexual. He also spent a lot of time drinking and gambling, so one difficulty has been to make it believable that Cleopatra would fall in love with him. Because somebody like that could come across to the audience as not very nice – and he probably wasn’t, but you still want them to fall in love with him like she did.’
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Thursday 10–Saturday 12 March.