Nottingham Theatre Royal witnessed alchemy last night (Saturday 25 September) at the world premiere of Merlin. Within the elegance of this house, Northern Ballet’s new production produced gold of the finest quality.
I am not a regular attender of ballet and I blush at my lack of informed opinion. But Northern Ballet wishes to reach many just like myself, and reach me they did. This was powerful storytelling and tangible emotion portrayed through gesture, expression, movement, music and set. I've never watched a show before that suspended time so profoundly. A six year old in the seat next to mine was enrapt; the prolonged standing ovation at the close showed many others had been too.
The production values were spell-binding. Mesmerising orchestration conjured up a world of incantation, affection and aggression. Ingenious use of set, lighting and puppetry created labyrinthine dungeons, forests and blacksmith domiciles that evoked the emotional charge of each scene whilst encouraging the quick silver fluidity of the tale expressed. This is skilful work.
Characterisation through movement was an enchantment. The gamut of human emotion Kevin Poeung gave his Merlin allowed us to see ourselves, with our complicated lives, reflected here. As Uther, Lorenzo Trossello’s angular magic-conflict with Morgan (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) was palpable. Dragon puppeteer Ashley Dixon breathed an endearing charm to the creature in his care. The fatal struggle of the whole-cast battle scenes absorbed us completely. Between the earthy hammer blow of the Blacksmith (Minju Kang) and the other-worldly joyous water somersault of the Lady of the Lake (Abigail Prudames), we tasted the grit and the grape of Merlin’s experience to the full.
With a message that love is a potent magic too, this show does everything we beg of good theatrical expression. Be sure to book your seat.
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