Conjuring up all of the charm, magic and celebration of the fairytale, Birmingham RoyalBallet’s Cinderella is an absolute delight. With David Bintley at the helm, the enchanting story of Cinderella is brought to the stage in a celebration of ballet, childhood stories and the idea that our wildest dreams can come true.
Staged over three acts, the Birmingham Royal Ballet present the timeless tale of Cinderella in their traditional but nonetheless awe-inspiring fashion. Poor Cinderella spends most of her days in the scullery answering to her cruel stepmother and her ugly step-sisters. Marion Tait as the Stepmother, flanked by the two ugly stepsisters, is suitably prickly and unkind to Cinderella. Samara Downs gives an admirable comic performance as Skinny alongside Laura Purkiss as cake-scoffing Dumpy. With impeccable timing, the three characters add some wonderful slapstick moments – their wit and foolery providing a striking contrast against the elegance and poise of the pas de deux between Cinderella, danced faultlessly by Jenna Roberts, and The Prince played with charisma and athleticism by William Bracewell.
Set design by John F. MacFarlane complements each section of the ballet perfectly – the grey, dank kitchen where Cinderella serves her stepfamily contrasts with the picture book beauty and infinity of the starry sky on the night she meets The Prince. MacFarlane’s costume design is imaginative – frogs, lizards and mice grace the stage, tutu’s twinkle in the ensemble under David A. Finn’s clever lighting design.
Birmingham’s Royal Ballet’s Cinderella was well received, by an audience of all ages, on the night that I attended. The familiar and charming tale of Cinderella and her Prince make this show more accessible to younger ballet lovers or those attending the ballet for the very first time. This enchanting production is a balletic feast of technical brilliance, striking scenery and scintillating costume. Set to Prokofiev’s spellbinding score, stunningly played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, there is much to enjoy in this breathtaking production.
2016 marks four hundred years since the death of William Shakespeare and Birmingham Royal Ballet continue their celebration of the world’s most prolific dramatist with Shakespeare Dream Bill. The production presents three contrasting works, from contemporary to classical, in a Shakespeare-themed feast of balletic brilliance.
American choreographer Jessica Lang’s Wink serves an elegant entree inspired by the language of The Bard’s sonnets. Set to Jakob Ciupinski’s new score, both the music and the movement echo the structure of the sonnets. Surreal and captivating, the piece takes its title from the first line of sonnet 43, ‘When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see.’ The graceful performance is framed by Mimi Lien’s set of rotating boards which switch from black to white representing the blink of an eye. Stylish and contemporary, Peter Teigan’s lighting design and Alfie Jones’ voiceover add further clarity to this faultless display.
José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane subtitled ‘Variations on the theme of Othello’, distils the tangled tragedy of Othello into a tightly knit and thrilling one-act piece. The four dancers: Tyrone Singleton (Othello), Iain Mackay (Iago) , Delia Mathews (Desdemona) and Samara Downs (Emilia) sweep and glide in Pauline Lawrence’s medieval inspired gowns. Moving in a circular motion about a dark stage, they are enmeshed. Othello’s white handkerchief is passed between them to Henry Purcell’s baroque score.
The Dream concludes the triple bill with a good dose of magic and wit as the company revive Sir Frederick Ashton’s 1964 interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With Peter Farmer’s leafy woodland setting and John B Read’s dramatic lighting design, the company fill the stage with elegance and jest.
I was very surprised to see a few empty seats on the night I attended as the Birmingham Royal Ballet usually, and rightfully, attract a full house. Perhaps the idea of Shakespeare fused with ballet felt quite daunting for some, which is quite a shame as The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Shakespeare Dream Bill is pure perfection- a stunning display of agility, beauty and technical wisdom. This production is a superb evening out for all ages and whether you are a seasoned theatre-goer or on your first trip to the ballet, the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Shakespeare Dream Bill is a dazzling visual feast.
Birmingham Royal Ballet Company make a pleasing return to the Lowry in Salford to continue their Shakespeare Season which commemorates the 400 year anniversary since William Shakespeare’s death. There is no better adaptation to bring to the stage then Kenneth MacMillan’s much celebrated classic interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, which is still as fresh and as exhilarating as when it was first performed in 1965.
The tale of the star-crossed lovers is set to Sergei Prokofiev’s magnificent score, featuring ‘Dance of the Knights’ which many will recognise as the opening theme tune of BBC television show The Apprentice. However, there are no novices in this beautiful production, only stand-out performances from emotive storytellers loaded with technical brilliance.
Paul Andrews’ stunning and detailed design conjures up all of the hustle and bustle of Verona amidst the feud of the two rival families – The Montagues and The Capulets. Like a medieval masterpiece framed by a proscenium arch, the dancers glisten under John BRead’s lighting design.
Momoko Hirata impresses as the dainty, vulnerable but determined Juliet – a masterful storyteller and graceful dancer. From jesting with her nurse, who is brilliantly played by Ruth Brill, to the final harrowing scene when she finds Romeo lying cold next to her in the charnel house. Hirata handles the transitions between the varying emotions superbly in this beautiful but ill-fated love story. Joseph Caley is well cast as Romeo, charming and impulsive in love – Caley expresses the immaturity of young love during his brief passage from boyhood to death.
The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet is a stunningly impressive production. With Prokofiev’s epic musical score delivered powerfully by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Kenneth MacMillan’s acclaimed choreography and Paul Andrews’ picture-perfect design, the talented company deliver a beautiful performance of the most tragic love story ever told.
Swan Lake has returned to The Lowry this September – in this lavish, romantic and stunningly beautiful production by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Swan Lake is arguably the most famous ballet in the classical repertoire, certainly one of ballet’s greatest love stories and a personal favourite of mine. Headed up by David Bintley CBE and with choreography by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Peter Wright, this production by Birmingham Royal Ballet is one of the finest that you will ever see.
Powerfully illuminated by Tchaikovsky’s striking score, Swan Lakedepicts the story of Prince Siegfried’s love for a beautiful princess named Odette. Odette has been cursed by the evil sorcerer Baron von Rothbart and must spend her days as a swan, only returning to human form between midnight and dawn. The sorcerer’s wicked enchantment can only be broken if someone who has never loved before swears an oath of undying love. However, Rothbart further complicates the lovers by introducing a beautiful black swan, Odile.
Prima ballerina, Céline Gittens is captivating playing the twin roles of Odette and Odile – she turns effortlessly, for what seems like an eternity, on one spot alongside TyroneSingleton, her Prince Siegfried. The whole company are outstanding – but the harmony between the two principles during their pas de deux is spectacular. Singleton demonstrates strength, energy and passion against Gittens’ purity and elegance – both dancers are masterful storytellers.
Philip Prowse’s set design is majestic and detailed from the grand setting of the reception at the castle to the haunting embankment at dawn. The costume design is a marvel – heavy, bejewelled and rich attire for the regal scenes, yet the dancers move with ease. The twinkling white tutu’s worn by the swans give a stark contrast against the medieval backdrop of red, black and gold opulence. Atmospheric lighting design by Peter Teigan fully complements the graceful magic of the dancers on stage by conjuring up a sense of autumn and the haze of sunlight drifting through the trees; the cascading dry ice creates a haunting lakeside setting for the shimmering formation of the spectacular female corps de ballet, twinkling and moving perfectly as one body.
The wonderful sound of the soft padding of pointe shoes across the Lyric Theatre at The Lowry, backed by Tchaikovsky’s legendary lyrical score delivered by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia make this a first rate production – thrilling, beautiful and faultless.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake continues at the Lowry until Saturday 26 September 2015.
With First Steps: A Child’s Swan Lake on Friday 25 September at 1pm.
The Birmingham Royal Ballet are back at The Lowry with an enchanting production of Coppélia. As David Bintley CBE celebrates his twentieth year as director of the company, there really is no ballet more apt for this occasion than the story of Coppélia, packed full of mischievous humour, triumph and joy.
As the Royal Ballet Sinfonia begin to play and the gauze raises to reveal Peter Farmer‘s impressive leafy set, we are transported to a village somewhere in Eastern Europe where Dr Coppélius, an eccentric toy maker wheels out his latest mechanical creation on to his workshop balcony. His only wish is to bring this wind-up doll, Coppélia, to life. Michael O’Hare tells the story of the funny doctor well and looks the part with his puzzled facial expressions and his frazzled white hair.
When Coppélia is left out on the doctors workshop balcony she arrouses attention from flirtatious Franz and the green eye of jealousy from his wife-to-be Swanilda, with neither of the pair realising that she is only a doll.
When the two lovers, separately and unknowingly decide to enter Dr Coppélius’ strange workshop comic chaos is unleashed. Swanilda and her friends pull off the dusty red drapes in the doctors spooky workshop to reveal more of his mechanical dolls. Peter Wright‘s choreography succeeds in bringing all of the humour in the story to the fore, not an opportunity is missed and the world class dancers deliver with energy and sparkle.
Elisha Willis as Swanilda is as an amazing storyteller as she is a dancer – with impeccable timing she conveys humour while delivering complex ballet sequences with ease. Chi Cao as Franz shows a lightness of movement in his solo pieces – turning effortlessly as he appears to float in mid air. Again, a good actor, performing with a good hint of arrogance as the flighty Franz. Following the two striking female soloists in Act III, Celine Gittens and Delia Mathews, the pas de deux between the two main dancers appears to lack a little confidence though.
Peter Farmer‘s intricate, striking set design frames the dancing perfectly, the leafy forrest and Dr Coppélius’ workshop through to the grand drapes and garlands during the Festival of the Bell.
This joyous and witty ballet is a light hearted and humorous celebration of love, suitable for seasoned dance lovers or those who are making their first trip to the ballet. I took Thing 1 (aged 9) and he found it easy to follow and found the story very amusing. With Delibes wonderful musical score, stunningly pretty costumes and Peter Wright’s impressive choreography, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia really is a magical feast for the senses.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Coppélia continues at the Lowry until Saturday March 7th.
With First Steps: A Child’s Coppélia on Friday March 6 at 1pm.
Our pick of the best Manchester Theatre this month
Rather like the Mancunian weather at the moment – we’ve got an eclectic month of theatre planned for March. It’s a lucky dip of cultural goodness – so feast your eyes on our top picks for this month.
Blood Brothers (Palace Theatre)
Written by Willy Russell, Blood Brothers tells the moving story of twins who were separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences.
This smash hit musical sees multi-platinum selling artist and my favourite crooner, Marti Pellow take the role of narrator and the critically acclaimed Maureen Nolan play Mrs Johnstone.
Featuring a superb musical score, which includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged Tell Me It’s Not True, the show has been affectionately named the Standing Ovation Musical.
Blood Brothers runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from 2nd March 2015 until 14th March 2015.
Sham Bodie (Kraak, Northern Quarter) – 5th March
Sham Bodie is a monthly night held at Kraak in the NQ. Essentially, it’s like lots of the best nights out rolled into one package. There is stand-up and live comedy sketches, from new and established acts, as well as live music from some really good bands. This month features BBC New Comedy Award finalist Tom Little, Fab Radio’s Nina Gilligan and Michael J Dolan. There is also music from garage blues two-piece, Dirty Heels. Sham Bodie only costs a fiver! And this month, in honour of St Patrick’s Day on the 17th, they have teamed up with their pals at Jameson to bring you free whisky. Yes, I said FREE WHISKY…go on, go on, go on….
Launched in 2013, SICK! Festival is the first of its kind in the UK, dedicated to revealing, debating and exploring the physical, mental and social challenges of life and death.
SICK! isn’t for the faint hearted or those who fancy a bit of frivolous escapism- the festival explores a variety of issues such as rape and mental health, amongst others, through a variety of different mediums – art installations, film and performance. The festival runs through most of March and events are taking place all over Manchester and Salford. Please take a look at the program of events.
Anna Karenina (The Royal Exchange)
Ony Uhiara, takes the title role of Anna, a dutiful wife and a loving mother. When she meets Count Vronsky it turns her world on its head, putting everything that she has ever known at risk. In a parallel story, Levin is trying to live justly in a social system built on injustice. Spurned on by the woman he loves, he turns his back on wealthy society and heads for his country estate, determined to refashion it into a vision of a fairer world. Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece, set against the backdrop of imperial Russia, explores what happens when two very different couples grapple with the strongest emotion we humans are capable of feeling – love.
Olivier-nominated director Ellen McDougall makes her Royal Exchange debut in this contemporary version of the Leo Tolstoy classic.
Anna Karenina runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre from 19th March 2015 until 2nd May 2015.
BRINK (The Studio, The Royal Exchange)
This promises to be an interesting world premiere by The Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company and written by Jackie Kay (one of my favourite writers – love Red Dust Road).
The production explores the idea of being on the ‘brink’ – what brings you to the brink? When you are close to the edge – do you push forward or do you step back? Everything is possible when you are so close to the brink.
BRINK is running in The Studio at the Royal Exchange from 26th March 2015 until 29th March 2015.
Maxine Peake as Hamlet (The Cornerhouse)
For those of you, like myself, who didn’t manage to catch Maxine Peake as Hamlet the first time round at The Royal Exchange – this film screening of Hamlet at Manchester’s Cornerhouse may be for you.
Hamlet is possibly Shakespeare’s most iconic work, exploring ideas of love and betrayal and themes of murder and madness.
This groundbreaking version of Hamlet, directed by Sarah Frankcom, was the Royal Exchange’s fastest selling show of the last decade. It had a complete sell out run in the theatre and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet was described as “delicately ferocious” by The Guardian and “a milestone Hamlet” by the Manchester Evening News.
I’m definitely going to catch it this time round.
Cornerhouse have 3 showings of this unmissable performance.
Mon 23 March: Doors 19:15, Starts at 19:30 Sun 29 March: Doors 14:45, Starts at 15:00 Thu 2 April: Doors 19:15, Starts at 19:30
Birmingham Royal Ballet – Coppélia (The Lowry)
And finally, something for the little ones – Birmingham Royal Ballet are visiting The Lowry with Coppélia, it runs from March 4th until March 7th.
But more importantly, the Birmingham Royal Ballet are also presenting First Steps – A Child’s Coppélia on Friday 6th March at 1pm.
In this hour long version, the delightful story has been specially adapted to suit children aged from 3-7.
The Lowry are also holding a Family Fun Day on Saturday 7th March from 12-1:30pm, which is free to all matinee ticket holders.