Latest Review – Shakespeare Dream Bill [Birmingham Royal Ballet] [The Lowry, Salford Quays] [UK Tour]

[Image By Bill Cooper]


Birmingham Royal Ballet

The Lowry, Salford Quays

Until Saturday 17th September, 2016

Following on from the sublime Romeo and Juliet earlier this year, the ever-impressive Birmingham Royal Ballet continues its ongoing celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary with a sumptuous new triple bill exploring the Bard’s tragedies, comedies and even a few of the sonnets thrown in for good measure.

Opening the programme is the slick, contemporary Wink, unfolding against a slowly descending black backdrop with only a number of revolving, reflective black and white panels for decoration. Clean and crisp in its design and overall composition, Jessica Lang’s elegant, intelligent half-hour piece, set to a discordant string-heavy score by Polish composer Jakub Ciupinski, takes its inspiration from five of Shakespeare’s sonnets for its poignant exploration of longing, reflection and anguish.

Featuring voiceover narration from Alfie Jones, the ten-strong company, led by principal soloist Brandon Lawrence, perfectly convey the poetic depth of the individual works, effectively depicting the melancholic, lyrical atmosphere and tone of the pieces in contrast to a straight reproduction of the text.

Firmly whisking us back through the centuries, José Limón’s 1949 ballet The Moor’s Pavane takes its inspiration from Shakespeare’s great tragedy Othello in a much more traditional and classical work extracting and concentrating the passion and darkness of the source text in alluring fashion.

Set to the music of Henry Purcell’s AbdelazerThe Gordion Knot Untied and the Pavane and Chaconne for Strings (here arranged by Simon Madoff), Limón’s most celebrated work condenses the essence of Othello into a powerful one-act tragic-drama, intricately honing in on the central quartet of Othello, Desdemona, Iago, and Emilia.

The stripped back, black-box piece intensifies the action both metaphorically and literally, confining the lavishly costumed four-strong ensemble in a tight, warmly lit circle and drawing out the tense rivalries that lie beneath formal, majestic surface.

A truly unexpected surprise awaits the audience as the curtain rises on the third and final instalment in the triple bill.

Having first premiered at the Royal Opera House back in 1964, Frederick Ashton’s The Dream (unsurprisingly adapted from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) set to the music of  Felix Mendelssohn (arranged by John Lanchbery) completely contrasts the sparse minimalism of the previous two pieces for a show-stopping and visually captivating finale.

Initially presented to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and now being revived for the 400th anniversary of his death, the near hour-long ballet is an utterly joyous homage to his most widely-celebrated comedy, distilling the action of the play in a smooth and impeccably structured piece that cuts out the fat and hones in on the most essential elements, focusing predominantly on the romantic quarrels between the principal characters.

Cleverly designed by Peter Farmer and beautifully lit by John B. Read, the ethereal piece uses a permanent front gauze to add a much more mystical and dreamlike tone to the visuals.

Amongst a very strong ensemble, there are standout turns from Cesar Morales and Momoko Hirata as King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania, Mathias Dingman as the mischievous Puck and Kit Holder as Bottom, as well as Tyrone Singleton, Tom Rogers, Samara Downs and Laura Purkiss as the central lovers Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia and Helena.

Conductor Paul Murphy ensures the always exceptional Royal Ballet Sinfonia are on fine form through the evening.

There are some minor issues with synchronisation and fallouts from turns, however they don’t detract too much from what is an otherwise glorious and impeccably staged celebration of dance, Shakespeare and life itself.

Running Times:

Wink [27 minutes]

Interval [20 minutes]

The Moor’s Pavane [23 minutes]

Interval [20 minutes]

The Dream [54 minutes]

[Total: 2 hours and 25 minutes, approx.]

Final Performance at The Lowry: Saturday 17th September, 2016.

For more information and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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