New ballet tells life story of Queen Victoria through daughter’s eyes

Northern Ballet, Queen Victoria. Picture Justin Slee
Northern Ballet, Queen Victoria. Picture Justin Slee

Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of our most iconic monarchs, Northern Ballet is premiering their new production, Victoria, in the spring.

The ballet tells the astounding life story of Queen Victoria through the eyes of her ninth and youngest child and lifelong companion, Beatrice, who we meet at the beginning of the ballet, aged 44. Travelling back in time from Victoria’s death bed, Beatrice relives her memories of her mother as a secluded widow before discovering her anew as she transcribes the Queen’s intimate diaries.

Northern Ballet's Victoria. Picture by Guy Farrow

Northern Ballet's Victoria. Picture by Guy Farrow

Beatrice uncovers her mother’s challenging relationship with her own mother; the truth about her passionate marriage to Prince Albert; and her ambiguous relationship with John Brown; as well as key events of her reign from the Opium Wars to the Great Exhibition.

Wife, mother, lover, Empress: Victoria presents the various, often conflicting faces of this emblematic monarch and shows how an act of daughterly devotion became one of history’s most notorious revisions as Beatrice transcribed and edited her mother’s diaries, burning the originals. So what we know about Victoria is Beatrice’s version of her mother and what she has allowed to be made available to the public.

The ballet is choreographed and directed by internationally acclaimed Cathy Marston, who also created Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre, which was nominated for a South Bank Sky Arts Award.

She said: “During my research I read that when Albert died, Victoria ran to Beatrice’s bedroom, gathered her sleeping daughter in her arms, wrapped her in Albert’s dressing gown and took her into her bed. Beatrice was only a young child at the time, and after that Victoria never really let go of her. After Victoria’s death, Beatrice took on the task of editing the diary that her mother had kept throughout her life. This struck me as interesting because Beatrice had only really known her mother as the widow in black. Her journey (re)discovering her mother must have been incredibly emotional and imagining this felt inspiring to me.”

Northern Ballet's rehearsals for Victoria. Picture by Drew Forsyth

Northern Ballet's rehearsals for Victoria. Picture by Drew Forsyth

Pippa Moore, pictured left in her role as Beatrice, with Abigail Prudames as Victoria and Joseph Taylor as Prince Albert, joined the Northern Ballet in 1996 and retires at the end of the spring season.

She said: “This will be my last role and it’s wonderful to retire with a ballet that I haven’t danced before. I don’t have to lament the past or be nostalgic about it being a role that I performed when I had more synovial fluid in my joints! The fact that I am the same age as Beatrice at the beginning of the ballet, 44, is somewhat poetic.”

Pippa said there was a complexity to the relationship between Victoria and her youngest daughter and in the ballet the layers are peeled away literally and metaphorically, so that Beatrice is afforded a new understating of why her mother was the way she was.

She said: “My hope is that the audience is moved by the transition in Beatrice’s mind as she begins to see her mother as a woman.”

Abigail Prudames, who performs as Victoria, said: “If I think about all the history that we are trying to portray, it’s actually quite daunting, but I’ve tried to put that aside and do my best to interpret Cathy’s vision for the ballet.”

Victoria is at Milton Keynes Theatre at 7.30pm from Tuesday April 30 to Saturday May 4, with additional 2.30pm matinees on the Thursday and Saturday.

Tickets cost from £13, call the box office on 0844 871 7652 or book online at www.atgtickets.com/milton-keynes