Occupied Paris. Hamlet is a French soldier returning from a POW camp. His father was the city’s chief of police. His uncle Claudius is a collaborator.
Northern Ballet Theatre’s artistic director David Nixon has nursed a desire to mount a Hamlet ballet for more than 20 years. His choice of staging has the appropriate degrees of tension, dread and brutality. Had there been a spoken prologue then the opening night audience, plus this reviewer, would have been better able to appreciate the opening encounters. The ballet’s synopsis, it must be said, covers four programme pages.
Nixon’s Hamlet is played by Christopher Hinton-Lewis, an alert dancer who can illustrate emotions without elaboration. His soliloquy is outstanding.
Georgina May’s Ophelia looks vulnerable from the beginning. Her total descent into madness, arriving at a party and clearly far gone, is heart rendering. She tip- toes down a staircase and twists in and out, under the hand rail, like a distracted child.
Nixon’s overall choreography serves the grim setting well. Confrontations have danger and depth. The couplings of Gertrude and Claudius, Nathalie Leger and Darren Goldsmith, are electric. Nixon’s corps dancers have gorgeous set-piece party dancing, naughty pre-war cabaret and muted, disciplined motions when the Nazis are in town.
Former NBT principal dancer and now established stage designer Christopher Giles has created weighty looking but nimbly turned sets. Eerie shadows serve the design well and Hamlet’s fleeting memories are staged to good dramatic effect.
Philip Feeney’s strident, frequently lyrical score secures the story’s setting, its recollections and its emotional struggles.