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Young Critics NRC

On Wednesday, Rachel from TheatreNI led a workshop in critical review, podcasts and blogging with the performing arts students at Northern Regional College, Newtownabbey. Students received training in critical thinking and review, as well as interactive and practical podcast and blog workshops with immediate feedback. The students at NRC watched a live recording of the West End production of Billy Elliot and reviewed the first act in groups. Each group concentrated on a different aspect; Music, Acting/Direction, Costume, Movement and Set/Lighting.

Music:

“Solidarity, solidarity,
Solidarity forever.
Don’t worry lads, we’re on your side,
Solidarity forever!”

In a country of strikes and strife. where does dance lie? Billy Elliot is a musical about a boy who wants to do ballet over boxing during the Miners’ Strike of 1984-85. We will be looking specifically at the well thought out and spectacular music in this piece.
Billy Elliot  is extremely emotional. Unlike in our more accepting world today, gender roles in this musical are set in stone, which upsets Billy (played by Elliot Hanna). He faces an inner struggle and to portray his desire to rebel against gender roles (i.e. wanting to do ballet instead of boxing), electric guitar is used as the instrument has connotations of rebellion. However, when Billy’s late mother is mentioned, soft piano is played. this musical’s use of contrasting music scores to convey contrasting moods is spectacular.
On the topic of contrast, Billy Elliot is amazing at showing the contrasts between characters and classes. The miners are deep singing men who sing in a unison of Durham accents, whilst the young ballerinas squeal at different points and sing delicately. However, whilst so different sound-wise, they’re all human. Even the policemen who defend Thatcher often sound identical to the miners, showing that they’re not really that different. The younger generation are human, like their parents, yet their high pitched squeals and scattered parts show that perhaps they will create a new future where boys can dance and girls can box.
Talking over music is common here, adding to the play’s earthiness and realism. People don’t always sing and dance. Billy Elliot finds the perfect balance between realism and drama.
– Amber, Odrhán, Mollie, Rebecca, Becky, Nauobh and Emily

Acting/Direction:

Billy Elliot is a performance set during the Miners’ Strike in Durham, near Newcastle upon Tyne. The young man (Billy) attends a boxing class but is drawn towards a ballet class that is held in the same hall.
Throughout the performance, children are used to bring humour through the depressing times. They’re often caught in the middle (literally). Especially in one particular scene, where the girls and Billy are in dance class while policemen and miners are arguing over and across them. The children innocently ‘keep the peace’.
At the beginning, we see Billy using messy movement and as the show goes on we his movement become more precise and controlled. As the trouble gets worse outside, Billy’s dancing get better. While he’s in the dance class we see the teacher become more and more impressed with his talents. She almost becomes a mother figure in his life, as we know  Billly’s own mother is dead,
The broken family is shown quite well in one the first scenes. We see how each of the characters’ personalities are very different especially Billy. His bedroom is placed quite high away from his dad, brother and grandmother. His character is an outcast, an underdog, which we see most in the angry dance. He is segregated from everyone even though there are policemen on stage with him. In this dance he is completely by himself, being himself and letting out all of his emotions through dance. This makes me think that it may be the first time he has been expressive this way as he has learnt that dance is a way to show his emotions. For the first time, the spotlight is on him!
– Kristen, Sophie, Abbie, Emma, Jordan, Tia and Emily

Costume:

Based on the Miners’ Strike in County Durham, this fantastic play showcases the struggles that our main character Billy Elliot (played by Elliott Hanna) goes through on a daily basis. A wonderful and heartwarming play, directed by Stephen Daldry and Brett Sullivan, who bring us back in time to live a child’s dream.
One thing that stood out specifically was the costumes that each character wore and how they clashed. For example, the miners and policemen who give a great example of class differences and their standing in society. The miners were dirty and dull, while the policemen  were clean and pristine and clearly proud of their work uniform.
Another important feature to note was the constant use of the Union Jack colours, which represents the miners’ strong standing as the people of Britain.
Overall, we loved the play because of its ability to take you to another world and make you forget about your own situation.
Zoe, Elijah, Kiera, Sophie and Gabrielle

Movement:

Today we are reviewing the musical Billy Elliot, directed by Stephen Daldry and Brett Sullivan. The musical is about a young boy, living during a miners’ strike, whose heart belongs to dance but his family disapproves.
We will be discussing the execution of movement throughout the performance of Act I. The musical begins showing the contrasts between adults and children. This is shown by the miners walking strongly and in unison with determination, meanwhile the children chase each other and play, showing innocence.
Throughout the musical, movement is used to show how Billy is excluded in many scenes. For example, while the other boys are boxing, Billy stands and watches. Also, during the ballet scenes, the girls dance while he stands and watches, reflecting how he feels.
Throughout the show, emotion is shown using movement. Billy’s dancing reflects his anger and frustration in certain scenes.
Movement was also used for characterisation, such as how the dance teacher’s movement and mannerisms changed as the musical went on.
Overall, we all enjoyed the musical and believed that movement was executed and shown well.
– Emily, Leah, Leon, Emma and Megan

Set/Lighting:

Today we were reviewing the set and lighting of Billy Elliot: The Musical performed in the West End in London.
Twelve-year-old boy chooses his own destiny, rather than the one chosen for him. I feel that the lighting represented the characters’ emotions through colours which helped the audience to feel what the characters felt.
The lighting direction cleverly used the light to contrast between reality and fantasy. However, there were times when the lighting was a little too dark and so, it was difficult to see some of the characters.
The set was very realistic and simple and really showcased the situation of each of the characters.
– Jenny, Aimee, Olwyn, Alex, Emma, Sarah and Chloe