Review: The good, bad and ugly

Dance: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Northern Ballet Theatre

at the Grand Theatre, Leeds, and touring

Not a goat in sight but Northern Ballet Theatre's Hunchback of Notre Dame has omitted very little else from Hugo's epic tale of love, lust and flying buttresses. The novel's mixture of romantic love and local colour made it an ideal ballet d'action and the first of many dance versions was made by Jules Perrot in 1844.

Christopher Gable, celebrating his 10th year as artistic director of Northern Ballet, has already enjoyed success with such audience-magnets as A Christmas Carol and Dracula. Now he has decided to dust off the old war-horse with the help of Halifax Building Society, which is sponsoring the production. And very lovely it looks. The sets are by the consistently effective Lez Brotherston, whose designs for Adventures in Motion Pictures' wartime Cinderella have just won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance. Brotherston's sets for NBT suggest the lacy stonework of the cathedral architecture in tones that echo the clean monochrome tones of William Dieterle's 1939 film. The costumes, from Quasimodo's mailsack and tights to the stylish velvet kirtles of the aristocracy, evoke the period without fuss in a high-class Osborne and Little palette of greens, wines and greys.

In this version of the story, four men (a playwright, a captain of the King's guard, an uptight archdeacon and a spinally challenged campanologist) are captivated by a beautiful gypsy. She loves the captain but the jealous priest murders him and lets Esmeralda take the blame. Quasimodo whisks her off for a spot of sanctuary in his lovely Parisian penthouse before she is finally hanged in the Place de Greve. The tragic ending will come as a bit of a disappointment to any children suckered in by the thought of Disney on pointe (you've bought the lunchbox: now see the ballet).

Having decided to tinker with the scenario, it is surprising that Gable and his choreographer Michael Pink didn't take further liberties and streamline the narrative a little to focus on the central lusts and jealousies. There is more to successful storytelling than a witness statement timetabling the tragic events. Too much good dancing time is wasted providing opportunities for the corps de ballet, a multi-purpose peasantry who specialise in synchronised high-kicking and rhythmic cabbage-throwing.

I would have liked more of the central characters. They were smoothly danced and sincerely acted but they needed more time to establish their roles. Amaya Iglesias was a pretty and supple temptress as Esmeralda. Luc Jacobs managed to pull off Charles Laughton's trick of being both disabled and acrobatic and conveyed the Hunchback's sweetness and self- loathing with total conviction. Handsome Omar Gordon was perhaps a little young to convey the torments endured by the venal cleric whose faith collapses in the face of temptation. Denis Malinkine, star of NBT's Dracula, was randily insincere as the handsome captain after a bit on the side.

Their big scenes could have been given a bit more help by the music. Philip Feeney's otherwise attractive score was a bit restrained in places for the purposes of melodrama. Quasimodo's first appearance at the Ugly contest should come as a terrible shock but the medieval muzak crumhorns by as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened and Esmeralda's agonised dance for her rival's amusement was similarly anonymous. This and the slightly plot-heavy scenario meant that, although the ending was unhappy, it wasn't quite unhappy enough.

To 28 Feb, Grand Theatre, Leeds (0113 222 6 222), then touring to Nottingham, Eastbourne, Newcastle, Glasgow

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Newly Qualified Teachers

    £90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

    Year 3/4 Teacher

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments