Reviewed by Jenny Seymour
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, what a privilege to watch the Northern Ballet at this beautiful theatre. We are so lucky in Sheffield to have such a beautiful venue.
I’ve been incredibly lucky as well to have seen a number of productions by the Northern Ballet over the years, but this was actually one of my favourite ballets. You may all be familiar with the tale of the 3 musketeers and the young D’Artagnan who is desperate to become a musketeer. To see such a familiar story danced in ballet was incredible. Often it is difficult to follow a ballet – whilst the music and dancing may be mesmerising, you definitely need a copy of the programme to steer your way through each act and, more often than not, each scene can take some time to play out (a character can take many pirouettes to die!!). What was really refreshing about this ballet was that some scenes were fairly short, but each scene was easy to follow and linked key elements of the story. The one scene that you would perhaps benefit from more explanation (and therefore use the programme) is where Buckingham’s servant tells him he has lost some secret letters. Unless you knew this was the case, you may not know what was being written between the two lovers. The tale is very much about the loveless marriage between the overly camp King Louis XIII (which is portrayed excellently by Sean Bates in the scene of the anniversary ball) and Queen Anne and her relationship with the Duke of Buckingham and the battles that ensue to ensure that the Queen’s dignity is not lost by the conniving Milady and the Cardinal.
It was also great to see a ballet where many of the lead characters were not just male but had a particularly masculine role to play. Unlike in many ballets where you may be drawn to the men in tights – here the costumes were more traditional from the time-period.
The set and lighting were also used so effectively from the streets of Paris, across the fields of Northern France (on moving horses!), through the port of Calais (complete with moving ship) to the English countryside.
However, most impressive of all was the choreography and effortless, but graceful dancing. The performances by all the cast, from the hilarious 3 musketeers (who always manage to arrive just when the fight was won!), D’Artagnan and Constance through to the exquisitely beautiful romantic liaisons between the Duke of Buckingham and Queen Anne and all of the supporting cast were so precise.
Special mention has to go to the fight choreographer, Daniel de Andrade – the duels and fight scenes with the guards are incredible. Fast paced fencing, yet still maintaining the elegance of the ballet. Of course, the scenes throughout and the final act can end with no other than the swords held aloft and the imaginary cry of “All for one and one for all!”
There were elements of more contemporary dance in this ballet I felt – particular examples of this were during the emotional dance in the French cell where D’Artagnan and Constance were captured and bound together: the lifts were amazing – no hands could be used as they were tied and Constance puts her head through D’Artagnan’s tied arms and is lifted across the stage. Wow!
I also enjoyed the beautiful dances between the Queen and her lover, the Duke of Buckingham, in the Queen’s secret chamber – again the lifts were incredible. This set was also my favourite. The large doors in the back of the wall could be flung open to reveal a stunning chamber. It felt like you were in a hall in Chatsworth House! The Queen’s dress during these scenes was a beautiful simple white but created lovely shapes during the exquisite lifts.
There were also some great comedy moments – I mentioned the fact the 3 musketeers always seemed to arrive after the fights were won (even though they were supposed to be the greatest swordsmen!), but they also played great drunks, often taking advantage of their “celebrity” amongst the local ladies in waiting. There was a great moment when even Constance can’t find the secret door out of the secret chamber.
It is common in dance for hand gestures to tell part of the tale and today was no different. However here, they were used in a clever way to clearly explain what was happening (for example when the Cardinal was referring to the diamond necklace).
All in all, I would recommend this Northern Ballet production if this is your first taster of ballet and I truly believe that David Drew has achieved what he set out to do in creating the 3 Musketeers as a ballet and that is, make ballet more accessible to a wider audience. I hope he knew that before he passed away in 2015.
Another classic from the Northern Ballet! Bringing to life this classic tale in comedy as well as dance – “All for one and one for all!” – Love ballet or loathe it, this ballet is certainly one for the wider audience.
[Please also note: If you park in the local Q Park car park, remember to claim your 1 hour FREE ticket from one of the members of the theatre staff before you leave.]
Tickets cost from £10 to £40 (booking fees may apply).
Northern Ballet’s The Three Musketeers is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 24-27 October 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000