Victoria at Sadler’s Wells
Behind the queen, there was a woman: a passionate, intelligent, fragile woman, who found strength in the people around her. Victoria, the first co-production between Northern Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada, choreographed by Cathy Marston, delves into the romantic relationships that shaped and supported the monarch, gracefully unveiling a tender portrayal.
Opening on a funereal note, the ballet begins with the end of its protagonist. Beatrice, Victoria’s youngest daughter, is entrusted by the queen to compose and publish an autobiography from the diaries her mother has kept since before the coronation. Going through the pages, reliving – and, at times, redacting – the past, Beatrice learns more about the woman who has she has lately felt to be quite oppressive and melancholic.
With the show moving from the most recent Victoria to her younger self, the overall rhythm builds in a crescendo to more lively and exciting numbers. One of the most beautiful, though, is actually a sequence not featuring the queen. While young Princess Beatrice (Miki Akuta) is delighted by her union – finally approved by her mother – with Liko (Sean Bates), older princess Beatrice (Pippa Moore) joins the dance in an enchanting flowing routine in which the happiness of the moment of the young couple is entwined with the tragic knowledge of the future. The older Beatrice, indeed, is grasping the shadow of her husband, filled with sorrow over the loss of their merry lives. It is a duo, evolved into a trio, that feels like an evanescent act.
This concludes the first part, in a way bridging the unsettling and downcast widow Victoria with the more playful and bright woman of the second section. Going further backwards, the audience witness the young protagonist becoming queen and falling in love with Albert (Joseph Taylor). The dance with her husband differs considerably from the previous one with the servant, John Brown (Mlindi Kulashe). In this latest routine, tenderness prevails: a sense of reciprocal comfort overcoming a sense of defeat. With Albert, the blending of the two bodies seems lighter, like two fresh lovers. The change from black costume to Victoria’s pure white gown helps in setting the mood for the two scenarios. Abigail Prudames as the queen is sublime: at once powerful in her movements and delicate in her interactions.
The ray of light that falls from above whenever the methodic reciting of the diary breaks through memory lane is a delightful touch in the otherwise quite fixed stage design.
The score, composed for this new work by Philip Feeney, could have added more character to some of the passages, especially those with various dancers on stage. However, it perfectly fits with the more intimate couplings, featuring as a subtle accompaniment rather than an excessive addition.
Victoria is an exquisite dance of love, memory and regality.
Photo: Emma Kauldhar
Victoria is at Sadler’s Wells from 26th March until 30th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.