Karen Koren: Give yourself an autumn treat at the Playhouse

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Billy Elliot is having a good run at the Playhouse. I was lucky enough to get a tickets and went with my daughter Katy at the end of last week.

What a brilliant musical it is; I sadly missed it when it first came out in London 16 years ago. This is the first time it has been on tour and it’s a tour de force by the cast, especially Billy himself played by Adam Abbou, who was the best young dancer I have ever seen.

The section in the show where he dances with his older self, Luke Cinque-White, rightly got a standing ovation. It is always heart-warming when a whole audience as one get to their feet in astonishment and admiration for an outstanding piece of musical theatre.

The story is not an easy one and I only had my memory of the film and the wonderful Julie Walters playing the part of the ballet teacher. I had forgotten that it all took place during the miners strike of Maggie Thatcher’s time as prime minister during the mid 1980s.

Emotions were running high in the days of the strike at the north eastern mining town and Billy is missing his mother who died two years earlier, she appears to him to reassure him that she is always with him (brings tears to the eyes).

His dad and brother are north east mining men, and with gran mostly lost in her own world, Billy needs some care and attention. He goes to boxing lessons but hates it and stumbles across a ballet class and joins in.

Mrs Wilkinson, played by Annette McLaughlin, discovers his talent and helps him get a place at the Royal Ballet School. One of the best routines was Billy’s cross-dressing friend Michael dressing up in his mum’s clothes.

There is plenty of grit with the father becoming a scab to help collect enough money for Billy to go to Ballet school. The police and the miners do an amazing choreographed piece just before the interval, the set broke and the show had to be stopped, but it was handled with absolute professionalism and didn’t spoil any of the show at all. It is on until the October 22 and I would highly recommend that you don’t miss it.

n Karen Koren is artistic director of the Gilded Balloon