Two words get uttered in this warm and tender ballet from David Bintley, a production with a feelgood factor that is almost off the scale. They are ‘By gum!’ from a satisfied Willie Mossop, the bashful, lovable apprentice who can’t believe how the love of a good woman has changed his fortunes.
Robert Parker has made the role his own and he is beautifully paired with Elisha Willis as the ramrod-backed, buttoned-up Maggie. It’s like watching ice melt as her overtures towards him become more fluid and confident. This isn’t a spectacular ballet but it’s one of the most exuberant, so real and vibrant and telling such a detailed story that it’s deliciously like watching a silent film, especially in the studied antics of the drunken Henry Hobson (David Morse).
Sunday afternoon in Peel Park is a lungful of fresh air, an escape from Victorian drudgery, where even the prim, regulated, almost funereal dance of the Salvation Army band breaks out to lose its chains. It’s a beautiful piece of choreography. Reade’s music is full of Northern influences, with brass and percussion and piano that is straight out of publand.
There are fine supporting performances all round, especially from Carol-Anne Millar and Victoria Marr as Maggie’s gossipy sisters, rising and falling with outrage, like carousel horses. Sublime moments combine pure comedy with deep poignancy. As Maggie leads her new husband by the ear to the bridal bed, his trousers flapping round his ankles, you can’t help but love them both.