Reviewed by Catherine Brown
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is being performed by the Northern Ballet at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent on 13th and 14th June. Originally a book by John Byrne and later a film, the ballet is choreographed and directed by Daniel de Andrade. Northern Ballet are renowned for creating new ballets and tour widely, performing to audiences throughout the UK.
The story is set during World War 2 in Nazi Germany. Bruno is a young boy whose father is promoted to Commandant, a puppet of ‘The Fury’. The family have moved to a house close to Auschwitz – although Bruno is unaware of the horrors which take place behind the barbed wire fence. Bruno’s sister Gretel and the children’s mother have different views on the war although both are attracted to Lieutenant Kotler, also an SS soldier. Kotler’s inappropriate behaviour is noticed by the Commandant and he is sent to the frontline as punishment.
While exploring his surroundings, Bruno makes friends with a Jew he meets called Schmuel – the wearer of the striped pyjamas. Although exposed to some impact of the war, Bruno seems oblivious to the reality of the buildings and their prisoners next door. They boys engage in childish behaviour until Bruno becomes aware of his friend’s hunger and attempts to give him food. When Bruno betrays his friend, he attempts to make it up to Schmuel by entering the camp with him with disastrous consequences.
Despite Bruno and Schmuel being played by adults, the dancers both managed to capture the innocence of children in their movements. I was mesmerised by Rachael Gillespie playing Gretel, who transforms from a doll loving child to a girl who has come under the spell of her tutor Herr Liszt. The transition in setting from the home to the fence of the concentration camp was done seamlessly and dramatic lighting and music from the Northern Ballet Sinfonia added to the tension of the piece.
The Regent Theatre is in the Hanley area of the city and as always, the staff were warm and welcoming. The piano bar is a perfect place to have a pre-show glass of wine, while the main foyer stocks a variety of drinks and snacks. Although the themes of the ballet were thought provoking and sometimes distressing, it was performed well and showed the talent of the dancers.
For other shows at the Regent Theatre in Stoke visit www.atgtickets.com/regent-theatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7649.
Regent Theatre, Piccadilly, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 1AP | 0844 871 7649