Northern Ballet’s Victoria pirouetted its way into Curve last week. The subject matter needs no explanation as it is centred around our second-longest reigning monarch.
When Queen Victoria is portrayed in modern day culture, the story often follows her journey from princess to the ascension to the throne, to the death of her beloved Prince Albert. What often isn’t portrayed is how Victoria’s grief consumed her and turned her into an incredibly possessive, volatile mother.
What’s really interesting about this ballet is that it’s actually told through the eyes of Victoria’s youngest child, Beatrice. Unusually, the production starts at the end – Victoria’s death. Upon her death, Beatrice requests that her servants bring her her mother’s diary. Initially, she revisits her own childhood and relives their difficult relationship, especially Victoria’s overbearing nature that eventually led to the death of Beatrice’s husband.
The shadowing of present-day Beatrice and young Beatrice is beautiful, and the two dancers dance so in tune with one another that you really can fathom a close bond between the two. The choreography is beautiful, with elements of contemporary ballet giving it a slight edge. The staging of Beatrice reading and rewriting her mother’s diaries is excellent, with the bookshelves behind her slowly turning from red (her mother’s diaries) to blue (Beatrice’s edited versions) without you even knowing.
During Act Two, Beatrice decides to try and understand why her mother was the way she was by reliving her earlier diaries, covering her youth as a supressed child, to finally becoming queen, and then her heartbreak at losing Albert.
There are some jaw-droppingly beautiful scenes in Act Two especially. I particularly enjoyed the staging of Victoria birthing all of her children and the sudden death of Albert. It’s incredible how smoothly and effortlessly one scene can span more than a decade and show such joy and despair in one swoop.
Before watching this ballet, I like many others felt quite confident that I knew the story of Queen Victoria, and yet I left having learned quite a lot. Not only is this a breathtakingly beautiful rendition of the life of our second-longest reigning monarch, it’s a history lesson too.
Reviewed by Rosie Bambury
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