Last night, thanks to Official Theatre, I saw Billy Elliot in London’s West End for the first time in probably seven or eight years. This spectacular show is now in its tenth year at the Victoria Palace Theatre.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Billy, Michael and the rest of Mrs Wilkinson’s ballet class, along with the mining community of Easington as you watch Billy Elliot. The characters are well formed, even Grandma has her starring moment reminiscing about her late husband, and the choreography throughout the show draws you in and will make even members of the audience with multiple left feet consider dancing lessons.
Whilst on the subject of choreography, what impresses me (I’m by no means a dancer, so please excuse my lack of technical terminology on this subject) is how certain characteristics, such as aggression and stereotypical ‘masculinity’ are expressed through dance and movement throughout the show. This is most notable in Solidarity, a tune you will be humming long after you leave the theatre. The contrast of the frustrated and angry miners, aiding the dance moves of the girls in the ballet class makes it a fascinating number to watch. Of course, the magic of theatre means that despite Billy’s dad and his mates being twinkle toed themselves, we fully believe that Jackie Elliot is outraged at the idea of his boxing son taking up dance.
If you’re anything like me, there’s hardly a show on in the West End that doesn’t have you weeping at some point and Billy Elliot is no exception. Whilst some scenes can feel almost pantomime in their delivery, others fill you emotion and you’ll be forgiven for wiping a tear from your eye in the darkness of the auditorium, and you won’t be the only one. The Letter is a stunningly beautiful and delicate song from Billy’s dead mother to the son she has left behind. It pulls on your heart, and builds to a moment that anyone can relate to with Billy clutching the memory of his beloved mum with all his might. Prior warning – the reprise in Act 2 will have a similar effect. So don’t throw away the Kleenex in the interval.
The Victoria Palace Theatre was full with people of all ages and from all countries around the world as tourists came to see the show. Whilst Billy Elliot contains very British references, The Miners’ Strike, Margaret Thatcher, and the Durham accent, it is not, unlike the fabulous Made in Dagenham, a show about those things. It’s a show about individuality, discovering a passion and chasing a dream, and, if I may pinch a quote from writer Lee Hall, “what the hell’s wrong with expressing yourself, being who you want to be?”. Therefore, no matter what language you speak, or what your cultural references are, you can relate to this show.
So, if for the last ten years you’ve somehow escaped the cry of Billy Elliot, calling you to take your seat in the grand auditorium of the Victoria Palace Theatre, wait no longer! It’s a funny and moving show that will hopefully be around another ten years.
Tickets are available for Billy Elliot HERE.