THE name Cleopatra conjures up for most an exotic femme fatale, brilliant and calculating, using her beauty for political ends. And perhaps too a gloriously over the top feast of costume, sand and eyeliner.
Any cheesy sword and sandal-ness is deftly avoided in this stunning Northern Ballet production, however. A classy yet simple set allows us to focus on the dancers and brilliant choreography, slightly echoing Egyptian hieroglyphic stance at times. Costume is effective but never intrusive and even Roman armour is portrayed well.
Martha Leebolt, in the lead, is an extraordinary force, conveying the personality, sensual allure and also cunning of the famous queen, who even in her time courted celebrity appeal and a whiff of scandal.
The method of her death, with a snake bite, is the ballet’s beginning, and is cleverly conveyed in human form by Kenneth Tindall. Serpant-like movements by the dancers carry the theme through the ensuing flashback of Cleopatra’s triumphs and failures as she reflects on her life.
We meet her loves - a regal Javier Torres as Caesar - and Tobias Batley as a waylaid Mark Antony, both dancing with great aplomb and conviction.
The score is fabulous and evocative and not a minute is lost in showcasing great dance. Even in ensemble pieces choreography is tight and challenging, showing the company at its best.
Perhaps it is not as easy to celebrate anyone in the tale - no one is a particularly ‘nice’ character - and it maybe lacks the mythic appeal of Dracula and Christmas Carol, but it is easy to cheer the enormous talent telling the life of this iconic woman and we too fall under the spell.
Continues until Saturday.
by Ann Beedham