Rich Pickings on Northern Ballet’s Geisha
Let’s cut to the chase: if Rich Pickings did give star ratings Northern Ballet’s Geisha would be bursting the seams of five stars! Choreographer and director Kenneth Tindall has created something quite incredible; ineffable even! While this was always the highlight of this dance season the show exceeds all our expectations with its inventiveness and sheer beauty. It benefits greatly from Alexandra Harwood’s sumptuous score which is equally at home with Oriental mysticism as it is with Western romanticism.
The ensemble are also outstanding: Minju Kang as Okichi is beauteous and bewitching in the first act, ghostly and full of revenge in her death mask in the second. And her trainee geisha Aika is also coquettish and cute but finds it hard to forgive her friend. Hannah Bateman really dominates the stage as the Geisha Mother; while Daniel de Andrade and Joseph Taylor are simply masterful as the two Americans Townsend Harris and Henry Heusken.
But a massive big-up must go to Christopher Oram for an amazingly attractive yet functional set and costume design to die for. The second act’s ghosts are especially eerie and the geisha outfits are sublime. Alastair’s West’s atmospheric lighting really come into its own in the second act with haunting scenes and picaresque lanterns.
In their 50th anniversary year Northern Ballet once again remind us of why they are known as a jewel in Leeds’ cultural crown.
Reviewed by Rich Jevons on 14 February 2020 at Leeds Grand Theatre. Touring till 16 May, see Northern Ballet website.