18–21 March 2015
Reviewed by Jenny Seymour
This is the 3rd time I’ve been lucky enough to see the Northern Ballet at the Sheffield Lyceum and again, they did not disappoint. Once again, the score for this ballet was composed specifically for the Northern Ballet by Claude-Michel Schonberg (the composer of the screenplay for Les Miserable) and the dramatic nature of the score and the way it helps to narrate the story is reminiscent of the music in Les Mis; it really seemed to create the wild passionate setting of the moors in Wuthering Heights.
The ethos of the Northern Ballet company is to take a classic tale and tell the story through dance and this was again delivered – the choreography was amazing. I really liked the way that the dances between the young Cathy and Heathcliff seemed so playful and then as the characters grew, the dance depicted the love between them and the wrangling of their feelings when they were committed to others, but fighting the feelings to be together. Even the passionate scenes were choreographed superbly and done with taste. The story telling, as I say, is fabulous and the cast were all good actors as well as dancers, but it is still very much about the technical ballet. All the dancers are classically trained – and you could tell.
From the moment we arrived at the Lyceum, we were looked after and the staff were really pleasant and informative. We quickly read the synopsis of Act One in the programme and we thought this was well worth a buy. Having said that, the story of Wuthering Heights was very easy to follow from the beginning when Heathcliff, the “surprise present”, arrives with Cathy and Hindley’s father to take his place at the table at Wuthering Heights through the development of the relationship between the young Cathy and Heathcliff, right through to the climax of the passionate and aggressive relationship that ensued. Heathcliff, the original Christian Grey perhaps?
The set, whilst simple, was very effective with great use of lighting: the windswept tree on the moors, the opulent gold drapes in the bedroom of Thrushcross Grange and the snowfall in the epilogue was so realistic.
This tale tells the story of Heathcliff, who is brought home by Cathy and Hindley’s father and “adopted” into their family, much to Hindley’s disgust. We felt sorry for Hindley as he was pushed from pillar to post to make room for Heathcliff and then as Cathy and Heathcliff become close spending all their time on the desolate moors. There they come upon Thrushcross Grange. They disturb a party that is taking place and in the rush to escape Cathy hurts her foot and is taken in by Edgar (who becomes besotted with her) and his sister Isabella. Cathy is very quickly captivated by the opulence of the Grange and on her return to Wuthering Heights is disgusted by its gloomy interior. She chooses Edgar’s opulence and we join Act 2, after the interval, at their wedding. A genteel Heathcliff is an unexpected guest at their wedding and briefly Cathy and Heathcliff’s love is sparked again, but once again Cathy chooses Edgar. In his rage, Heathcliff uses Isabella and she falls for his charm. This charm soon turns aggressive though, but she submits. For those who are familiar with Emily Bronte’s classic novel, you will know there is many a passionate scene in Wuthering Heights as Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship becomes entwined with Isabella and Edgar, but each scene is told through dance incredibly and tastefully.
Despite choosing Edgar, Cathy is jealous when she sees Heathcliff with Isabella and she is drawn back to the moors and her memories of Heathcliff. There their love is rekindled, but they are spotted by Isabella. The night on the moors was enough to make Cathy very ill and she meets her demise.
The epilogue was really powerful and moving – we see Heathcliff back on the moors, desperate to be with Cathy again. As the snow falls, his heart fails and he dies and we are taken back to the playful dancing of young Heathcliff and Cathy and the memories of their time on the moors.
The costumes have been redesigned and refreshed for this production of Wuthering Heights and they were truly beautiful. The white floaty night dress that Cathy wears was stunning, as were the costumes for the wedding scene and there was the classic Heathcliff look, complete with knee high boots (even though they were ballet shoes).
All of the cast performed excellently, but the six principal characters, young and old Cathy and Heathcliff, Isabella and Edgar were outstanding. Tobias Batley (Heathcliff) and Martha Leebolt (Cathy) were just brilliant – they made each lift appear so effortless.
The dance between the young and older Heathcliff was very strong as they mirrored each other around the stage.
We must not forget the chorus of this ballet though, who again do a great job. Many of the chorus are apprentices in the troop and still (despite one tumble, which was recovered professionally) their dancing was of an incredible standard.
The ballet ended to rapturous applause though with a few people deservedly getting to their feet to give a standing ovation.
Overall: This was a stunning performance, superbly choreographed. The costumes and set were both beautiful and the orchestra and powerful score were superb. I would recommend a trip to see this amazing ballet company – fabulous dancing and great story telling.
Please note – the theatre only has an arrangement with the Q Park car park (you get 1 hour free parking) so bear this in mind when parking, as the car park next to the Crucible is quite expensive!
Tickets costs from £12 to £37 (booking fees may apply).
Wuthering Heights is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield until 21 March 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Sheffield Theatres, 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA | Box Office 0114 249 6000