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  • REVIEW | The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas | Northern Ballet
Matthew Koon as Bruno and Filippo Di Vilio as Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Photo Emma Kauldhar

REVIEW | The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas | Northern Ballet

Renowned for their narrative ballets, this year Northern Ballet are really challenging themselves by taking on such a poignant and emotional story. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is a tale that they tell exquisitely with their simple yet powerful movement.

Northern Ballet really bring Jon Boyne’s novel to life with a magnificent set and the seamless transitions between the fence dividing the two young boys, the house and the Nazi quarters. The darkness of the staging makes the piece feel cold, which projects a lot of emotion into the piece. However, there were light moments in the production which appear to lie with the women of the show, who bring a sense of optimism and radiance through their elegant lines.



The choreography is rich with texture as it illuminates the two young boys and their stark differences. Kevin Poeung as Bruno is playful and his happiness and ease of life is projected through his sharp, dynamic movement. Whereas in contrast, Luke Francis’ Shmuel shows the weakness of the character through slow, heavy movement. His emotional strain is felt through his whole body which is displayed in his every step.

The friendship between the two boys is a beautiful aspect of the piece, when they dance together it is inevitable to pull on your heart strings. Their connection is heightened when they finally manage to be on the same side of the fence, and you see a real lift in the character of Shmuel as all of a sudden his movement is light as a feather.

Bruno’s mind is innocent, and his naivety is shown well through dance as he remains active and lively despite the brutality occurring around him. This juxtaposes heavily to the strong and vigorous moves performed by the Nazis. Their regimental character is evident through every inch of their choreography, with the most potent scene being when they are collecting the Jews and forcing them into the transport to Auschwitz. Their actions are vulgar and heartless and this creates a really painful scene in the ballet.



Choreographer Daniel de Andrade’s idea to create a symbol of evil through a character is an excellent addition to the narrative. Named The Fury, it is a spectre of Adolf Hitler that is a constant throughout the piece. Dancing with brash, fiery and rapid movement that reflects the anguish of the character. He can’t be seen by anyone during the production, and is merely a ghost in their lives, until the commanding moment at the end when Bruno’s father discovers what has happened to him and he is literally faced with The Fury.

An abundance of emotion is projected through the thought-provoking choreography and it’s a heart-wrenching ballet that is entirely poignant.

Northern Ballet perform at the Wolverhampton Grand until the 31st of May before continuing on tour around the UK. Details of the tour can be found here.

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