Why I love Cleopatra
Hi everyone, it's the Ballet Geek again and in this blog I want to tell you why I love Cleopatra.
As you would expect, I did go to see Cleopatra when it first toured during 2011 but this year's revival is no less exciting regardless of whether you've seen it before or not. It's intense, sexy, glamorous, romantic and emotional, all in one go.
The story is a powerful telling of the major events in Cleopatra's life with a focus on her two great romances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and the chaos that followed each of her liaisons. The good thing is that you don't have to be a historian to follow the story. The dancers' acting (yes they are multi-talented!) carries you through each scene so it's clear who's who and what's happening. If you're still unsure though, a quick visit to the online Cleopatra scenario before the performance tells you everything you need to know about the ballet you're about to watch. Failing that, treat yourself to a programme when you arrive at the theatre, not only will you find the scenario included so you can refresh your memory, but it's also jam-packed full of interesting information, interviews and stunning photographs - a wonderful memento of a great evening out.
The music for Cleopatra is an original score written by Oscar-nominated Les Misérables Composer, Claude-Michel Schönberg, so you know it's going to be up there with the best. The music adds depth to the scenario and helps you follow the story with the different musical styles - the tone and style of the music when in Egypt is completely different to that being played when the on-stage action is in Rome. I love the music so much that I even bought the CD soundtrack to listen to in the car, although I'm sure Cleopatra never had to put up with traffic jams. My personal highlights are the dark intense music used when chaos breaks out in Rome and the playful Act II scenes during Mark Antony's feast.
Moving on to the costumes, you'll note two things: 1. The bright colours and opulent fabrics, 2. The amount of skin on show (it's hot in Egypt and Rome after all). The costumes are beautiful, especially Cleopatra's, whose wardrobe is everything you would expect of a Queen. They compliment the setting and allow you to easily identify the main characters and establish who is Egyptian and who is a Roman based on their clothing. There are a lot of torsos, arms and legs on display too which, as well as being in-keeping with the style of the setting, allows you to see the dancers' muscles working and really appreciate the quality and power of the performers on stage.
Last, but absolutely not least, the choreography, in my opinion, is brilliant. Each character has their own signature way of moving and the audience really gets a flavour for who they are; for instance you're never in any doubt over who is playing Wadjet, the snake-God, with his rhythmic slithering movements. The Egyptians also cleverly recreate positions reminiscent of those from ancient hieroglyphics which is a really nice touch. Cleopatra has just the right amount of slow romantic duets, intense dramatic scenes, and feisty ensemble dances to keep the pace of the ballet just right and, without giving anything away, the climax of the performance is marvellously iconic, helped by the bathing of light which creates a sun-baked Egyptian atmosphere.
Cleopatra made it straight into my top three Northern Ballet productions when I first saw it in 2011 and, after seeing it again this month in Leeds, it has firmly cemented its position. In fact I might actually go and beg the powers that be to perform it once a year on my birthday as a special treat, just so I don't have to wait three years to see it again.
The bad news is that Cleopatra's run in Leeds has now come to an end...the good news is that you haven't missed your chance as it will be performed at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre from 22 - 25 March.
So trust me, go see it, it'll blow your socks off.
Martha Leebolt as Cleopatra and Tobias Batley as Mark Antony in Northern Ballet's Cleopatra.
Photo Bill Cooper.