The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is one of the most heart wrenching, emotional stories that I have ever read in my lifetime and both the film and book really moved me. The novel by John Boyne captivates the story of a family in Berlin during World War II, but centring on one young boy Bruno, whose curiosity leads him to a barbed wire fence where he encounters another young boy, Shmuel. Little does he know what lies behind the barbed wire fence and the consequences if he crosses the line. It's strong and emotional force is undeniably what makes it such an important story so when I heard that Northern Ballet would be presenting it I was excited to see how they would captivate such a story through the mediums of Dance.

Northern Ballet have become the company of all companies to approach modern, more well known stories and use the mediums of Dance to enhance and recreate the stories visually. They do not disappoint in creating Boyne's story, from the beginning to the end it's stage presentation was undoubtedly strong in capturing an era that we know too well about from various stories and other sources. As well as being an era that changed the world forever.

The scenery helped to captivate the many tones and atmospheres associated with World War II, the strong imagery of the Nazi army whose darkness swarmed the stage as soon as they entered. You couldn't help but feel uncomfortable and affected by their presence, I thought that capturing The Fury (Mlindi Kulashe) was really effective, showing the control and order over the army as well as attempting to penetrate the minds of the other characters too. The contrast between that darkness to the light, more playful tones and more elevated movement when Bruno was in the space works really well and blends into the narrative constantly. 

Whilst the story does centre on the relationship between Bruno and Shmuel, the other relationships in the story are just as important if not more so as they influence the events that unravel. This ballet manages to capture and show the relationships intertwining into the main context thread, I was able to follow their relationships just as easily as that of Bruno and Shmuel and was pleasantly surprised in what little they missed to capture. 


The production was very sensitive to the plot and managed in 1 hour and 50 mins to focus in on the important events within the context that integrate the story together. The short movement phrase from the Prisoners of Auschwitz was as emotive and intricate as you would have hoped it to be, really executing their struggles and fear from their heads to their toes. There was gorgeous poise and technique presented throughout the production, drawing in on the different dynamics dependent on their character from the strong, more linear movements of the Nazi's to the more relaxed, fluid and slow movements of the prisoners. 

There was no doubt that the relationship between Bruno (Kevin Poeung) and Shmuel (Filippo Di Villo) drew you in from the very beginning they first met. The childlike and play between them showcasing their similarities in being just two young boys who build this friendship whilst divided by a barbed wire fence. I loved their graceful, elevated and well executed technique in this production. If you know the conclusion of their friendship then you almost want to try and convince them to be more aware, they really presented the unknowing and naive characteristics that these two boys process.

It's conclusion is presented by sliding scenery, fear on the faces of the prisoners and just a small cloud of smoke from up above. It's visual representation is next to none but I didn't feel as much emotion from it as I would have hoped, having balled my eyes out at the film and book at this part I didn't feel that but there was a slight lump in my throat. 

All in all Northern Ballet presented this story very well, I was impressed by their visual representation as well as how they decided to move through the narrative. They continue to be a company that executes traditional stories in the most beautiful ways. If you had read the book or seen the film than I definitely would say that this piece is easy to follow. I thought that from what I knew that this piece definitely transferred well from a film/book into a dance production.

Definitely check out this production whilst it's touring until 21 October and I'm really excited by their World Premiere of their new production, The Little Mermaid later in the year. 

thanks for reading,