Billy Elliot the Musical is a raw and emotionally charged powerhouse of a production, which will leave audiences feeling inspired, uplifted and moved by the time the actors take their final bow.
The production which is running at Leicester’s Curve Theatre until August 20, is something which I had the pleasure of seeing last night (Wednesday, July 20) and it was a joy to witness the infectious energy of the entire cast, particularly that of its young, and very talented star, Jaden Shentall Lee (pictured below).
Jaden of course, plays the titular Billy Elliot who aspires to become a professional ballet dancer, despite this being at odds with his father’s wishes and his strong working class roots.
For me, the real standout moments in the show, come when he is given the spotlight to showcase his strong acting and dancing skills, backflipping and pirouetting his way through several key scenes, with a steely-eyed determination, and a laddish down to earth charm, which you can’t help but fall in love with.
Billy Elliot is set in a small town in County Durham, during the increasingly bitter 1984/85 miners’ strike, something which lends raw power, depth and a real emotional charge to the story, which was brought to life on film back in 2000.
The juxtaposition between the bleak, industrial mining scenes, and the ones set elsewhere (for example in Mrs. Wilkinson’s dance studio), show the stark contrast between the two worlds – that of the miners, and the one that Billy strives for – a life of colour, creativity and joyful freedom.
This is a story about struggle – Billy struggling to get away from a life he seems destined for, and the miners trying to keep hold of their bleak livelihoods – the only lives they really know.
The miner’s struggle and their harsh reality is something which really got to me, and I was left in tears at one point by the heartbreaking performance given by Billy’s Dad, who is played skillfully by Joe Caffrey.
In one particularly scene, he’s caught in real turmoil, between standing firm and continuing to strike, and going back to work in the mines in order to support his son’s dancing ambitions. I was blown away by this raw, and very real performance – one which was heartbreaking and almost painful to watch. But I was also touched by the sense of community, and solidarity which comes as a result.
The staging of the play is something which impressed me enormously in this ‘Made at Curve’ production – large industrial structures taking centre stage and weaving their way into other more domestic settings seamlessly, for example pipes replacing the Barre in Mrs. Wilkinson’s ballet class.
There are a constant reminder of the story’s mining backdrop and what Billy’s town is built on.
Despite the play being quite heavy at times, there was plenty of humour and light relief throughout – potty mouthed characters with very little in the way of airs and graces, and moments of absurdity to lighten the load.
The character of Mrs. Wilkinson, played by West End Legend, Sally Ann Triplett (pictured above), was someone who was a real joy to watch – a real fire cracker of a woman, and a straight talking force to be reckoned with!
All in all, Billy Elliot the Musical is a marvellous production with all the right ingredients to stir powerful emotions, inspire, uplift entertain and then some!
By Louise Steel