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Billy Elliot - Curve Review

"I can't really explain it, I haven't got the words" is how I have been feeling since the curtain came down on an extraordinary press night of Curve's new production of Billy Elliot but dear reader I'll have a go.

Jaden Shentall-Lee (Billy) - Photo by Marc Brenner

Curve has been given the honour by the original creative team to create a completely brand new version of the show and under director Nikolai Foster and his assembled creative team they have cooked up a remarkable Billy for 2022. Beyond the dazzling spectacle of this production at its core is a moving story of community and family. 

It's clear how much research and energy Nikolai and his team have put into the production. From trips to the mining communities of Easington, where the show is set, and meeting locals to Leicestershire's own mining history. That research pays off in delving deep into the story and allowing for the heart of Lee Hall's book to play out - bring tissues, you'll certainly need them.

On Curve's vast stage set designer Michael Taylor allows for the space's own industrial metallic feel which creates a vision of the mining world, with lift shafts and scaffolding. There are no traditional wings here and you can see the whole set but that allows for the world to feel alive in a brilliant way. 

There's some striking visual use of the props throughout and the whole feel for the production is set as soon as the Curve's iron curtain rises and you see the miners returning from a session in the pit stood rising on a lift in the centre of the stage. Through the stage haze the striking imagery of these miners with their helmets and lights on is one that stays with you. Numbers like 'Solidarity' are given such power with the staging and the use of props, cages and the energy and passion of the cast.

Whilst the show and the design are rightly quite dark with that industrial feel but Ben Cracknell throws every trick in the book at the show. You will have never seen lighting on this scale in any previous show. It's astonishing, powerful and a visual feast for the eyes. The whole lighting team has done a remarkable job.

The cast of Billy Elliot - Photo by Marc Brenner.

Beyond the stunning visuals, you have one of the strongest casts Curve has assembled, as well as one of the biggest. The role of Billy is shared between four youngsters and on the press night Billy was played by a sensational young talent in Jaden Shentall-Lee. Jaden nails the character perfectly, as the arc grows as he discovers his dancing feet, a skillful dancer and actor he does a great job of holding the whole production together. The connection with the characters around him is beautifully realised, and the relationship with his friend Michael played by Prem Masani is just lovely.

There's a whole host of fantastic performances. Joe Caffrey is amazing as Billy's Dad. The arc of the character is captured with real emotion by Joe, especially in the second act. The kind of performance that tears you up inside especially in the number 'He Could Be A Star'. Sally Ann Triplett is an iconic Mrs. Wilkinson, she sizzles in every moment on the stage. Luke Baker is strong as Tony, whether that be fighting the police officers or interacting with Billy or his Dad. Jessica Daley will touch your soul as Billy's mam and Rachel Izen will make you smile as loveable Grandma.

Throw in Lucy Hind's fabulous choreography which is performed with real pep by the company, especially the team of youngsters in Mrs. Wilkinson's class. Add in George Dyer's musical direction and a cracking on-stage orchestra that brings Elton John's music to life that hit your core and had me in goosebumps numerous times, especially alongside Adam Fisher's clear clean sound design.

All in all, Nikolai and all involved have mined pure gold with this production. It's undoubtedly spectacular but the lasting feeling is the heart and soul of this story. It'll move you to tears, more than once. Sparks fly and your heart will soar. A powerful, moving and extraordinary production. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Billy Elliot plays at Curve until 20th August with tickets available from

Jaden Shentall-Lee (Billy), Sally Ann Triplett (Mrs. Wilkinson) and Cameron Johnson (Mr. Braithwaite) - Photo by Marc Brenner

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