(Miriam Gillinsons’article appeared in the Guardian, 7/24.)
Nikolai Foster’s new version is more like a play with dance and songs, giving ideas around love and loss, community and isolation, passion and violence room to breathe
In director Nikolai Foster’s unforgettable new version of Billy Elliot the Musical, all the lines have been blurred. When the miners strike, they run through the aisles and scream their protests just over our heads. Billy’s bedroom sits atop a portable mining shaft, the personal and political packaged as one. When Billy dances, it doesn’t really feel like a dance under Lucy Hind’s beautifully empathic choreography. It is a boxing match. A street fight. An angry conversation. Art isn’t an add-on luxury in Billy’s world. It is his life.
Where Stephen Daldry’s original production, which ran for 11 years, felt like Billy Elliot the Musical – with a capital Musical – Foster’s new version is more like a play with dance and songs. Lee Hall’s script is given plenty of room to breathe and rings with ideas around love and loss, community and isolation, passion and violence. The result is a musical of unusual depth that distils Hall’s play to its essence but also feels nuanced and truthful.