It’s been a while since I’ve been to a full blown musical, so I jumped at the chance when I was hooked up with a ticket (thanks to the lovely people at officialtheatre.com). I’m a massive fan of musicals anyway, and also of Billy Elliot the film, so this was obviously a good shout. Turns out, it’s mostly a good shout at some points.
The show, like the film, is set in Durham, under Thatcher’s government. The miners in the small town, fearing unemployment, are on strike, and barely getting by. Mr Elliot (Deka Walmsley), although struggling with finances, still manages to send his son Billy (Bradley Perret) to boxing practice every week. But Billy, who dislikes the boxing, finds himself in the middle of Mrs Wilkinson’s (Ruthie Henshall) Ballet lesson, who sees potential in him. Even though Billy’s dad is upset at his “sissy” new passion, Billy still wants nothing more that to study at the London Ballet School.
Perret was a good Billy. His dancing was brilliant and, well he was pretty adorable. In particular, the scene where he dances with his older self (played gracefully by Barnaby Meredith) was beautiful. They mirrored each other’s moves precisely to the Song of the Swans, and it was absolutely mesmerising, until young Billy was lifted and spun around on a wire. Yeah they killed it. But the children in the show overall were brilliant. I loved their enthusiasm, and you could really tell they wanted to be there. They were enjoying themselves so much, that actually that was the reason why I enjoyed the show, because they were just so happy to be there.
Overall, Peter Darling’s choreography is superb, and is actually the best part of this show. In particular, the scenes including the police officers and the miners dancing in unison were the most effective. The sharp movements worked well in presenting the physical labour of the two groups, and showed the importance of unison and community to police officers and to miners. The audience realises the similarities between the two groups of men through their masculinity and their union, even though they themselves are in fact oblivious to their parallels. These scenes just looked great on stage and were really enjoyable to watch.
To be honest, it felt like none of the adults actually wanted to be there, but maybe that’s just me! After all, I am not the target market for West End musicals, they’re for those visiting London. For them it was completely enjoyable. The auditorium was filled with laughter at the over the top gags (like all the swearing, yawn), and the performance received a standing ovation, even from the old pensioner party sitting in the row in front of me.
It was a pleasant and enjoyable experience, purely because of the amazing choreography, so I do recommend it to those wanted to see some great dancing, and some insane puppetry (there’s nothing scarier in life than seeing a GIANT Thatcher). And actually, if you’re looking to recruit some young talent, then I recommend being in the front row too. But everything else? Just meh.
Want to see this show? Click here for tickets!