Angelina Ballerina

Written by Paul Larson and Laura Beaumont, inspired by original illustrations and stories by Helen Craig and Katherine Holabird
English National Ballet
Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Angelina the dancing mouse has graced many a child's bookshelf - prima ballerinas and novices alike. However, as in the case of the Horrible History series, stage adaptations do not always work. Thankfully, the English National Ballet's page to stage version does work and is faithful to the gentle nature of the original story.

Here we are presented with comic touches that do not patronise the young audience members or forget the parents watching. The first scene includes a Strictly reference to the now legendry John Sergeant that pleased the audience, no matter what age.

The design is simple but clever, with bold picture book sets and backdrops - all interspersed with the obligatory pink and red. This is how you would imagine the book to come alive in front of your eyes and designer Alan Riches must be applauded for creating such a soft frame for the Ballet.

The full head masks area also an inspirational choice - creating the dancing mice effect whilst not forgetting that these were real dancers behind the fairy tale.

It wasn't all storybook fluff that made this Ballet work. Anthony Dowson's choreography was sharp and inventive. Angelina's dream sequence with her Prince Charming was a beautiful pas de deux that showed moments of stillness and a lightness that had children of all ages gripped.

Like the story, the Ballet was kept simple - almost classical - and this was why it worked. This version did offer small flashes of other dance styles - we had hip hop dancing mice, Irish dancing and a pseudo-flamenco mouse! I am not making this up and despite how strange it all sounds, it worked. It was like Fame for the under 10's.

So all in all, a grand success for the English National Ballet in succeeding where others have fallen flat. Angelina Ballerina dances off the page and on to the stage and the result is very pleasing indeed.

"Angelina Ballerina" plays at Royal & Derngate until Sunday 24th May before touring nationally.

Reviewer: John Johnson

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