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Dance Review: Victoria, Leeds Grand Theatre/Touring

Northern Ballet delivers a history lesson through the relationship between Queen Victoria and her daughter Beatrice

CREATED to mark the bicentenary of Queen Victoria’s birth, this new production from Northern Ballet is very much an exercise in historiography.

It’s told through the eyes of her youngest daughter Beatrice, who in the first act examines how she was cast in the role of companion and literary executioner to her mother. In the second act, she reads pages of the queen’s diaries and in a sequences of flashbacks discovers the circumstances that moulded Victoria’s character.

Ever present, Pippa Moore’s Beatrice both observes and rewrites history through the pages she peruses and excises and, in some of the most powerful scenes, she gains self-awareness by observing her younger version, played by Miki Akuta.

At one point we witness her optimistic courtship dance with Liko (Sean Bates) while, at another, she stamps in rage when she realises how much she’s colluded in her own entrapment.

The weight of history and Beatrice’s place in documenting it is alluded to in Steffen Aarfing’s set design. Dark and forbidding tomes line ceiling-high bookcases in the first act but later they’re removed to create airy spaces of possibility, filled with living books that lightly dance across time to reveal their contents.

These contents sprawl on occasion, weighed down by the sheer number of characters, but Cathy Marston’s choreography is successfully held together by the core characterisations of the young and present-day daughter and mother, the latter played by a ferocious Abigail Prudames.

Philip Feeney’s cinematic score, recalling Hollywood’s golden age, also hints at the possibility of self-reinvention and of Beatrice’s chance to rewrite her way out of her mother’s shadow.

Tours until June 1, details: northernballet.com.

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