georginabutler

My work as a writer and dance/theatre reviewer

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

REVIEW: ‘Wonderland’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, July 2017

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Madcap musical Wonderland is currently whisking visitors to Milton Keynes Theatre off on a magical adventure. Now, call me mad, but this contemporary creation – which reflects aspects of modern day life while cleverly capturing the peculiar charm of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – managed to speak to both the girl I used to be and the woman I hope to become.

We all have days when thoughts of escaping the practicalities of living in the real world for a while consume us. We imagine how wonderful it would be to flee our humdrum existence, abandon our responsibilities and free ourselves from the shackles of expectation… Still, we don’t all cope with days like this by following a random rabbit and ending up in a kooky kingdom. Of course, as we all know, Alice does follow that rabbit. She follows him when he slips down a rabbit hole and finds herself visiting a realm which is home to the strangely talkative White Rabbit and a host of curious characters including the Mad Hatter, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat, March Hare and the pompous Queen of Hearts.

An entertaining experience from the start, Wonderland irrefutably illustrates that every adventure requires a first step and insists we are all capable of taking that step – no matter who we are or how grown up we may consider ourselves to be. Starring West End sensation Kerry Ellis, it’s essentially a loud and proud exploration of who we are and who we want to be.

 

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Written by Georgina Butler

July 19, 2017 at 3:59 pm

BOOK REVIEW: ‘With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario’, a memoir by Eva Maze – June 2017

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Dance is what inspires me in everything I do. Blissful serendipity meant I was given the opportunity to start ballet classes as a tiny tot and I will forever be grateful to the universe for that. Ultimately, I have become the person I am today because of my desire to always have dance in my life. Participating in dance classes, watching dance, writing about dance and teaching dance – dancing gives me purpose and makes me feel alive!

In fact, you might say that there is “ballet in my soul”. This nifty sentiment comes from an amazing woman named Eva Maze, who has titled her memoir With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario. An engrossing and educational read, I devoured the book in one afternoon and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in dance, theatre, history, travel or the pioneering achievements of extraordinary individuals.

Eva Maze (nee Feldstein) was born in Bucharest, Romania, on a summer day in 1922. Both her parents spoke Russian (her father was from Kiev and her mother was from Bessarabia) so Eva was bilingual in Russian and Romanian at an early age. Jewish by birth, she attended a Catholic school where the nuns taught the students in German and French and she was also tutored privately in English. She believes this early immersion in languages made her interested in the world outside Romania and later learned two additional languages – Spanish and Portuguese – which aided her in her career as an impresario (a theatrical tour manager or promoter). Without a doubt, Eva’s vibrant and fulfilling life will be envied by anyone with even a sprinkling of wanderlust as her personal and professional passions and endeavours have taken her all over the globe.

 

 

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Written by Georgina Butler

June 21, 2017 at 4:46 pm

REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ – Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, June 2017

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Northern Ballet’s dancers are in fine form this year. Following the success of the world première tour of Casanova, they are currently on the road with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – a new full-length narrative ballet based on John Boyne’s 2006 Holocaust novel.

The Irish writer’s international bestseller tells the heart-wrenching tale of a friendship between two nine-year-old boys living a strange parallel existence during the Second World War. Bruno is a German boy; the son of a Nazi officer promoted to the position of Commandant at a fictionalised Auschwitz concentration camp. Cossetted by his family, Bruno is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been relocated from his familiar home in Berlin to a lonely house in the middle of nowhere in Poland. Here, there is nothing to do and no one to play with. At least, there isn’t until Bruno befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy imprisoned at Auschwitz, through the barbed wire fence of the camp. As Bruno and Shmuel’s unlikely friendship flourishes, the full implications of Bruno’s father’s job as Commandant are exposed. Familial discord inevitably ensues before the harrowing conclusion reveals how, through misadventure, Bruno ends up dying with Shmuel in the gas chamber.

Although the premise of Boyne’s story is emotive and engaging, both the book and the subsequent 2008 film by Mark Herman received mixed reviews. This is due to the implausibility that any concentration camp prisoner could ever have engaged in a friendship with an outsider. Furthermore, the reality is that children below working age were typically murdered immediately upon their arrival at Auschwitz. Nonetheless, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an affecting account of wartime turmoil as seen through a child’s eyes. Significantly, Northern Ballet’s production, devised and choreographed by Artistic Associate Daniel de Andrade, stays true to the book, confidently using dance to capture the drama of forbidden friendship and family conflict.

 

 

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Written by Georgina Butler

June 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

REVIEW: ‘Billy Elliot the Musical’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, June 2017

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Billy Elliot the Musical is a moving and inspiring production that is about so much more than ballet dancing. Currently engaged in a three-week run at Milton Keynes Theatre, it enthusiastically establishes that “boys can do ballet too” while simultaneously championing offbeat individuality and highlighting the profound importance of family and community.

Based on the 2000 film, the show is set in a northern mining town against the animosity of the 1984-1985 miners’ strike. Billy, the eleven-year-old son of a widowed miner, is not really suited to the boxing ring. Nonetheless, he dutifully attends the lessons that his dad scrapes together the money for. One day, after yet another hapless training session, Billy unwittingly finds himself participating in a ballet class. Encouraged by dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, he secretly swaps his boxing gloves for ballet shoes and a toe-tapping journey of self-discovery begins. As Billy starts to shine, Mrs Wilkinson suggests he seize an opportunity to audition for the prestigious Royal Ballet School. Up against a fiercely macho culture and facing a rather dismal future, is Billy’s passion for dance enough to change his life and motivate those around him to re-evaluate their uncompromising mindsets?

This touring edition of Billy Elliot the Musical follows eleven years of phenomenal success in the West End. Naturally, the show boasts top-notch singing. Moreover, the drama provides both madcap moments that are guaranteed to have you laughing and touching scenes that will likely make you well up. Ultimately, though, the dancing proves the main attraction. Tutus feature heavily throughout but ballet is by no means the only way to boogie and choreographer Peter Darling’s brilliant routines cleverly capture the unbridled joy of dancing. Dazzling displays of ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, acro and aerial choreography drive the narrative, convey characters’ deepest emotions and unquestionably convince audience members that the whole cast are truly dancing their hearts out.

 

 

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Written by Georgina Butler

June 2, 2017 at 1:06 pm

REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘Casanova’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2017

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The art of seduction is all about knowing what is alluring to your intended, appealing to their desires and successfully winning them over. Northern Ballet appreciates that its audiences yearn to be engrossed in narrative works and brings these to the stage through energetic and expressive choreography. With Casanova, the Company has raised the barre (ballet pun intended) to deliver what may well be its most impressive production to date.

Based on a scenario created by Giacomo Casanova’s biographer Ian Kelly and choreographer Kenneth Tindall, the ballet unmasks the legendary lothario to reveal the man behind all those hedonistic sexual conquests. The plot provides a fascinating glimpse into Casanova’s sensational experiences in decadent 18th Century Venice and Paris. Exhilarating episodes blend together in cinematic style to divulge how the women – and men – Casanova encountered encouraged him to experience the pleasures of life through countless sexual adventures.

Choreographer Kenneth Tindall was a premier dancer with Northern Ballet from 2003 until 2015. Artistic Director David Nixon nurtured his transition into dancemaking. Casanova is the first ever full-length ballet Tindall has devised so it is fitting that he has embarked on this major undertaking with Northern Ballet. His vision, combined with the dramatic expertise of the Company’s dancers, means Casanova boasts both stunning physicality and absorbing storytelling.

 

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Written by Georgina Butler

April 21, 2017 at 4:45 pm

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s production of ‘The Red Shoes’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, February 2017

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Matthew Bourne’s incredible dance production of classic ballet film The Red Shoes is the perfect fit for his New Adventures troupe.

Every female dancer knows the right pair of pointe shoes can change your life but the crimson slippers at the heart of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s seminal 1948 motion picture take this sentiment to the extreme. Those red shoes are symbolic of a devoted young ballerina’s turmoil as she is forced to choose between the career she lives for and the man she loves.

The Academy Award-winning film is the quintessential backstage melodrama. Cinema and dance collide in the most spectacular style to depict an absorbing tale of obsession, ambition and jealousy. The characters are distinctive and dedicated to their art. The screen is ablaze in every scene with their desire to dance, make music and move audiences; as well as their passion for living and loving. The extraordinary extended ballet sequence blurs the line between reality and surreal fantasy…

I love the film. And I love that Bourne’s stage version is clearly his way of showing how much he loves it too.

 

THE RED SHOES by Bourne, , Choreographer and Director - Mathew Bourne, Designer - Lez Brotherstoni, Lighting - Paule Constable, Plymouth, 2016, Credit: Johan Persson/

 

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REVIEW: ‘Dick Whittington’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2016

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The title character in this year’s pantomime at Milton Keynes Theatre walks for miles in search of fame and fortune, strolling to London where he has been told the streets are paved with gold. Fortunately for theatregoers in the new city, Dick Whittington provides panto gold right on our doorstep! Melding magic, merriment and mayhem, the festive extravaganza is packed full of fun and stars a Christmas cracker of a cast.

Penniless Dick is played with warmth and wit (certainly more wit than is often granted to these boyish roles in panto) by actor Chris Jenkins. After packing his knapsack and lacing up his boots, this earnest chap ventures off towards the big smoke (striding “all the way from Cheltenham”), accompanied by his feline friend Tommy the Cat. When the duo finally arrive in the confusing city of Cockney conversation, they are disappointed not to be welcomed by golden paving stones. Completely famished and ready to earn an honest living, they discover that their promised land is overrun with villainous rats. Happily, they land on their feet (“miaow!”) when Tommy proves himself to be a top-notch rat-catcher and secures them both jobs in merchant Alderman Fitzwarren’s shop, Fitzwarren’s Stores.

Kev Orkian is panto personified as the shop’s assistant Idle Jack (swiftly promoted by Alderman to “assistant shop assistant” when Master Whittington appears on the scene!). Returning to the stage in what has become his regular Yuletide gig, Orkian easily proves why he is without question one of the UK’s finest entertainers. As an internationally acclaimed comedy pianist he is well-practised at simultaneously tinkling the ivories and tickling funny bones. With no piano in Dick Whittington (all the fantastic music is overseen by “Uncle Baz”, musical director Barry Robinson), Orkian is free to roam around the stage and has the audience in stitches throughout.

 

mk-theatre-panto-christmas-2016-dick-whittington-kev-orkian-as-idle-jack-tommy-the-cat-and-dick

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Written by Georgina Butler

December 14, 2016 at 2:34 pm