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.
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.