A dance to the music of most terrible times in our history

Matthew Koon and Filippo Di Vilio in rehearsals for Northern Ballet's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which has its premiere at Cast in Doncaster. Photo Justin Slee.
Matthew Koon and Filippo Di Vilio in rehearsals for Northern Ballet's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which has its premiere at Cast in Doncaster. Photo Justin Slee.

Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Cast, Doncaster, Today to Saturday, castindoncaster.com

Northern Ballet holds its world premiere of this heart-wrenching Holocaust story, told through a child’s eyes, in Doncaster tonight.

The adaptation of the children’s book by John Boyne looks at the horrors of World War Two concentration camps through two little boys, living either side of the barbed wire. Bruno strikes up a friendship with Shmuel, unaware what terrible things happen behind the fence.

Matthew Koon ( Bruno) and Filippo Di Vilio ( Shmuel) speak about the show.
How did you feel when you found out that you would be creating Bruno and Shmuel?

Filippo: It is such an important and big responsibility especially with such a delicate subject. I was very honoured and happy and I still am.

Matthew: Being chosen to create a role is one of the highest honours a dancer can have but it also comes with a huge amount of responsibility. I knew I had my work cut out and I didn’t want to let anybody down.

What was your reaction to the announcement?

Filippo: The subject is very delicate and I knew we would need to do it in a very respectful way. Although the story is not a wholly accurate depiction of what took place, I think ballet is a great way to introduce young people to the events of World War II. It is also good to remind ourselves that we cannot forget what happened. I knew it would not be easy but I was confident It is also good to remind ourselves that we cannot forget what happenedthat if there was a company that could do a ballet about this story, it would be Northern Ballet.

Matthew: Northern Ballet is known for using ballet to tell unconventional stories and I could see straight away that The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas fitted perfectly with what this company is capable of doing.

How do you tell such a complex story through ballet?

Filippo: We try to express the characters by feeling their feelings and immersing ourselves into their lives. The story should all be clear from the movements and shapes we are making whilst dancing and also from our facial expressions. Costumes, sets, lighting and music also help.

Matthew: I make sure to know Bruno’s thoughts and feelings in every step I take because only then will audiences be able to follow my character through the complex story.

Do you think it’s important for ballet to tell and be inspired by new stories?

Filippo: It is very important. We are in 2017 and everything around us is evolving so it is necessary that ballet stays up to date with everything else.

Matthew: Ballet has such a rich history and it would be a shame to lose the old masterpieces. However, new works are equally as important as they give opportunities for dancers and choreographers to leave their own footprints in history which may one day become the masterpieces of the future.