Review by: Paul Towers, 03 June 2017
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas – Northern Ballet
Curve – 2/3 June 2017
“incredibly downbeat and depressing”
Hm, OK, let’s get a few things out of the way before we start. Is a concentrate camp in WW2 a fitting location for a ballet? No, but that is where the story takes place so we have no choice. Should the story be told? A resounding yes. Is ballet the ideal medium. No.
The story itself is incredibly downbeat and depressing. The son of the concentration camp commandant and a young internee strike up a friendship across the barbed wire. It is naturally frowned upon by the authorities but they surreptitiously continue to meet. As young boys do, they wanted to be the same so the commandant’s son dressed as the internee in the titular striped pyjamas which leads to him being herded up with his playmate and led off to the gas chambers.
I have never seen either the film or the play but apparently a whole lot of detail has had to be missed out. None of which, supposedly, would add anything here.
The main problem with this production is that the story moves along so slowly and is padded out to, ostensibly, showcase the dancers’ undisputed technical abilities. However that makes for boring viewing. The two 50 minute halves could quite easily have been got through in a single hour without losing any of the story.
Death, in the shape of a wraith-like apparition lifted straight from Game of Thrones or Lord of The Rings, hovers over the entire story and, to be honest, I could have done with him wiping out the entire cast after 10 minutes. In fact, during the initial scene in the commandant’s office, surrounded by camp guards (and I do mean camp guards), I was praying for them to burst into a chorus of Springtime For Hitler from The Producers. How can you take seriously a troop of soldiers prancing around in traditional ballet moves? They are hardly intimidating. They look like a whole flock of Mirandas!
Next we come to the soundtrack, an eclectic mix of harsh, jagged sounds to illustrate the appalling conditions of the prisoners and the discipline of the warders, interspersed on a couple of occasions with the gentler tones of the boys’ the interaction. Neither makes for particularly easy listening.
The set, scenery and lighting are used to good effect
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is on tour for the rest of the year. Full details at www.northernballet.com
First published on Western Gazette