Our group went to see Billy Elliot on the West End last night. I had seen the movie a couple of years ago, and though I knew I liked it, I couldn’t remember the exact specifics of the story. Well, I certainly had a pleasant surprise when I went to see the play. The music was catchy, the dialogue was witty (albeit when I could understand their thick Northern accents), and the staging and choreography were excellent. But what really made the play stand out were the young cast members; the boy who played Billy was (to borrow a word from our British brethren) brilliant! He could act, sing, and dance both ballet and tap. I believed every movement he made, and every word he said. His young costars were also incredible, with his friend Michael being a definite scene-stealer.
|Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace|
My favorite scene was by far the scene where Billy dances with an older version of himself. At first they both copy each other’s movements to perfection, yet they gradually become more playful and begin dancing and interacting with each other. The dance sequence ends with Billy flying and spinning through the air, all to Tchaikovsky’s score for Swan Lake. In the end, it was a beautiful way to show the character’s passion for dance, and his realization of what he could eventually become. On a lighter note, the funniest scene was the opener for the second act, which depicted the town’s Christmas pageant. In it, the cast rousingly sings “Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher/ We all celebrate today/ Cos it’s one day closer to your death!”
Billy Elliot also made me realize how little I know of recent British history. In the US, the only real mention made of Margaret Thatcher is that she was the first female Prime Minister. Yet in the play one of the main conflicts is the push Thatcher made for shutting down the mining unions, which would have left thousands of Northern Brits out of jobs.
Another topic I know very little about (unfortunately) is royal British history, specifically after the Elizabethan age. We took a bus tour this morning where I learned more about the history of the palaces in and around Buckingham. For instance, St. James Palace was the original palace in the area; Clarence house is right next door and it is the happy home of Prince Charles, Prince William and his new bride Kate, and Prince Harry (talk about a packed house!). Buckingham Palace, with over 150 rooms, could certainly house the entire royal family, but at the moment it is only home to the Queen and her husband, and only during the weekdays.