Northern Ballet - Merlin - Review - Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

 The ballet is something that always marvels and amazes me. How dances can move with such poise and grace across a stage will always completely blow me away. Ballet has always been a part of my families life, with my grandma having had her own dance studio when she was younger and nurturing royal ballet performers. But it's something that I have to admit that I couldn't put my hands (or rather feet) to, for my two left feet were never graceful enough. 

Since becoming a fan of the ballet, I have found that I adore the modern adaptations more so than the traditional. The fact you can follow the stories easier, and the fact that generally the story flows faster than a traditional show. So when I heard that the utterly brilliant Northern Ballet were putting on a production of Merlin and it would tour at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, I was excited to take my seat in the audience. 

Merlin tells the story of a young boy who is left at birth by his two might god parents and discovered by a young blacksmith who raises him. Upon realising his powers, the blacksmith urges Merlin to hide his powers, until he is drafted into the war and is gifted the sword Excalibur. As Merlin realises his powers are exposed to those around him, he flees and hides, only to discover that the prince and princess of opposing armies are secretly in love. In a story about forbidden love, the balance of power, and standing for what you believe in, this show will take you on a rollercoaster of a journey from beginning to end. 

Kevin Poeung takes to the stage as Merlin and is absolutely brilliant with every move, turn, and gesture. He conveys every emotion with precision and tells a story in a way that makes you forget no dialogue is spoken on stage. His supporting cast move in a way that is poetic and adaptable. Working in unison, turning into the lakes, the powerful armies, and even puppeteers this cast were different than any other ballet group I have seen. 

Set to a soundtrack by Grant Olding, there is a clear modern twist to each chord and song played. It fit so well with the modern staging, that included a striking tree, wrought iron gates, and stunning black wings. Each piece of set was precise, daring and bold, to match the dancing style represented. Visually it was stunning, it was magic, it was brilliant. 

The show had magic weaved throughout, with illusions created by the team behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, you were left open mouthed at every turn. With lights and fire sparking across the stage, a glowing Excalibur, and a smoke breathing dragon, you are left unable to believe it isn't true magic on stage. This is a wonderful imagining will leave you spellbound no matter if you are young or old. Well done Northern Ballet, you have truly outdone yourself with this magical venture.

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