Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Lowry, Salford
Ahead of their full length interpretation of The Tempest this Autumn, Birmingham Royal Ballet bring their Shakespeare triple bill to the Lowry, opening with American choreographer Jessica Lang’s elegant and contemporary, Wink, which takes its name from the first line of sonnet 43, ‘When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see’. Inspired by Lang’s favourite sonnets, the five poems, read in reflective and brooding voiceover, compliment the expressive and emotive choreography.
The large expanse of the Lyric stage is perfect for Mimi Lien’s minimalist yet striking set, individual dancers stand behind chest height square panels, which swivel round and change from black to white, in effect winking at the audience. Peter Teigen’s lighting mirrors the changing colours and helps set the dramatic and intense mood creating together the perfect staging for Lang’s powerful piece. The dancers give faultless performances, Brandon Lawrence’s movement is seamless, Lang has worked closely with composer Jakub Ciupinski to ensure the themes and feelings of each piece echoes the mood of the sonnets. Whilst there are many elements of classical ballet, Wink delivers something fresh, exciting and delightfully contemporary.
Next we have José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane – Variations on the theme of Othelle created in 1949 it remains to this day a classic of American modern dance. Stripped back to just four principal characters; The Moor, Iago, Emelia and Desdemona, Othello’s tragedy is beautifully told in this 20 minute quartet. Limón through his delightful descriptive choreography tells the tale of the unfortunate Moor, his wrongfully suspected wife, and the Moor’s devious friend and wife.
The quartet move fluidly in a close circle, Othello’s precious handkerchief being passed from hand to hand, the niceties and decorum of the stately court dance soon exposed to be merely a façade for the passion and jealously bubbling away underneath. There is no set, just our four dancers as the focal point on a darkened stage; they succeed beautifully in drawing our attention as the glide effortlessly with purpose and heartfelt meaning, expressive, passionate and exquisite.
The final piece of this Shakespeare celebration is Frederick Ashton’s flirty and fun, The Dream. A 1964 one-act ballet telling the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream all set to a delightful Mendelssohn score. In stark contrast to Wink and The Moor’s Pavane, The Dream has a full and detailed set, we are transported to Peter Farmer’s magical forest and ushered into Oberon and Titania’s enchanted Kingdom, gently and beautifully lit by John B. Read.
The pace of the story telling is perfect as the ensemble cast usher us through the story charmingly, Mathias Dingman’s Puck is perfection, impish, playful and full of fun. Kit Holder makes for a delightful Bottom, comedic and as oafish as you could wish for. Special mention must also go to both César Morales and Momoko Hirata whose Oberon and Titania are quite simply enchanting.
The company excel in the utterly delightful and totally entertaining piece, fun, witty and classically beautiful. Birmingham Royal Ballet once again prove just what an exciting and dynamic company they truly are.