Jan McNulty

Birmingham Royal Ballet: The Dream, A Month in the Country, Birmingham, February 2016

73 posts in this topic

I bagged the £10 DREAM deal on this for tomorrow night. After what seems like an eternity of seeing very little ballet - flat deposit saving, see - this marks my first pilgrimage up the M5 to Birmingham to see my beloved BRB in over a year. I simply can't wait. :) Great to see some old favourites on the cast list too; Nao Sakuma, Joseph Caley, Matthias Dingman (twice!) and Karla Doorbar. Happy times.

 

Any other forumites going tomorrow?

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Not tomorrow - but I shall be on the train to Birmingham on Thursday with high hopes.

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I'LL be there tomorrow and I am toying with the idea of getting a ticket for Friday night as well. I really fancy seeing Samara Downs and Jamie Bond in Month. I think they will make a very intelligent reading of the ballet.

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So'm I (Thursday - 2P got in just before me). And on Saturday - couldn't resist the casting :)

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I'm jealous of all of you! This sounds like it will be wonderful no matter which casts are dancing, so please report back!

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I will be going tonight and tomorrow afternoon. I would love to be going to the Saturday matinee as well but unfortunately I have something else booked for then.

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I have battled with the Hippodrome website and got my £10 seat for Friday. I am so pleased that I will get to see both casts in Month in the Country. I would love to see the Saturday Matinee Dream cast (in more ways than one). I'll see how I get on.

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I'm really looking forward to Delia Mathews and Ian Mackay in Month and then William Bracewell as Oberon!!! Not very familiar with Jenna Roberts but I am sure she'll be a great Titiana as well!

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I was at the performance last night and had the great pleasure of meeting BristolBillyBob and his girlfriend.  We joked on the way out about which one of us would post first but as he is in gainful employment and I am not it looks as though I have won the race. 

 

I am a great lover of the works of Sir Frederick Ashton and here was a chance to see two of his finest.  We started with The Dream which is always a huge pleasure.  I had reservations about the Titania and Oberon of Nao Sakuma (filling in for Elisha Willis) and Joe Cayley.  I cannot fault their dancing but - for me - he lacked that air of mysterious authority and she didn't exactly sparkle.  I have problems with Nao in certain roles.  I never fail to admire her facility and sheer reliability but I feel a great Titania needs to have more than just peerless technique. 

 

The fairies were fine and I would like to mention my pleasure at seeing Maureya Lebowitz back with the company as Peaseblossom.  She has been absent for so long with illness I was concerned she might have left the company.

 

I enjoyed the quartet of lovers, Samara Downs with Tom Rogers and Laura Purkiss with Jamie Bond.  I find myself increasingly impressed with Samara and I am really starting to appreciate Jamie Bond so I am very keen to see them both in Month in the Country tomorrow.

 

Having said all of that the undoubted star of the work was Mathias Dingman as Puck, clearly really enjoying himself.   A respected friend of mine commented that he danced the text as it was originally choreographed and wasn't coy with his acting.  I do wonder which Puck(s) of the past he can be referring to.

 

I have not seen A Month in the Country for probably 25 years and I was amazed how it all came back to me.  When I saw the piece in the 80s Natalia was a role which tended to be associated with ballerinas at the tail end of their careers.  Regrettably I never saw Lynn Seymour except on TV but I remember Natalia Makarova with Anthony Dowell (and Merle Park and Marguerite Porter) and Antoinette Sibley with Mikhail Baryshnikov amongst others.  To see Delia Matthews who is very much on the upward career trajectory and far closer in age to the character in the play (as I remember it she is supposed to be around 29) was a very interesting comparison.  I felt she started off a little nervously and I missed the full Ashton epaulement in her first solo but as she settled into the performance she got better and better.

 

BRB has always prided itself on its character actors and we had two of its best.  Jonathan Payn gave Ratikin his all and Michael O'Hare (who could not give a bad performance if he tried) made Yslaev a really rounded character.  Mathias Dingman danced and acted fabulously as Kolia but he was miscast being far too tall for the role. 

 

My main general observations were that the set was too big for the stage and the dance area was rather cramped but I would rather have that than not have the ballet at all.  The second one was that I cannot remember ever seeing the story so clearly told.  When Iain Mackay entered as Beliaev you could see his effect on every one of the other characters.  He is a tall, elegant dancer and a very persuasive actor.  Frankly, as all the women went gaga over him, you could see where they were coming from.  Karla Doorbar was touching as Vera with Yvette Knight really enjoying herself as Katia feeding our hero cherries.

 

It was shown very clearly that though Vera and Katia were very taken with Beliaev he only had eyes for Natalia and their pas de deux was a masterclass in understated and restrained passion.  When he reappeared with the rose at the end I found myself welling up as I wondered who else but Ashton could have brought off that climax with all its subtlety so effectively.

 

Two very minor gripes.  The orchestra played The Dream sublimely but there were some odd sounds coming from the pit during Month.  Secondly, I was slightly disappointed that Marguerite Porter who played such a significant role in mounting the ballet didn't get the acknowledgment of a curtain call.  I am not sure what is the accepted form for this type of thing these days.

 

This is a short run of this programme and it is not going on tour.  I suspect the size of the set for Month is a deciding factor in this.  There are two casts and I am very pleased to be seeing both but I am sorry there are not more.  This is no reflection on the casts we do have but this is a wonderful ballet which offers real opportunities for both young and seasoned soloists.  I am sure that the company could have supported at least two more equally valid casts but. as I said before, better that we did have this ballet at all rather than not.

 

I am confident that all members of the forum who do go to see this run, particularly if they have been able to take advantage of the £10 a ticket offer, will really enjoy and appreciate it.  Ashton was a genius and long may his works flourish and in the style he intended.  We are so lucky to have them and I find performances such as this a complete and utter joy.

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Thanks so much for that wonderful and detailed review, 2P! :)

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I am looking forward to Month on Saturday afternoon in particular as my favourite Natalia is  Zenaida Yanowsky at The Royal Ballet, so I shall be interested to see how Delia Mathews compares.  I saw Alina Cojacaru in the role and really did not like her as Natalia at all!  No pressure then!

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Talking about £10 ticket offers: when I got to Moor Street today I noticed outside the station an offer which is a £15 return Birmingham-London with Chiltern Trains (booking?) until 6th March.  I mention it in case there is a way of reversing it and making it useful for London-Brum as well, although I haven't checked the T&Cs.

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I've just seen today's matinee so will post some thoughts, amateur though they are!! Great review above Two Pigeons, mine will be a ramble in comparison!

 

What a fabulous double bill for a start: 2 sublime works by Ashton danced by the wondrously on form BRB and I feel so lucky to have been able to see this in its very short run! I'm also seeing tonight's show and got a great deal on a Prem Inn in Brum!

 

First The Dream was precisely that for me. Magical performances throughout, which is exactly what it should be. Cesar Morales has such an ethereal other-wordly quality about him, he was perfect in the role of Oberon (stuck with me forever when he played The Stranger in Miracles in the Gorbals). Momoko Hirata, a big favourite of mine as she is so delicate and just floats in whatever she does, was an equally perfect Tatiana. Meanwhile James Barton was a dazzling Puck; Kit Holder very characterful as Bottom. Brandon Lawrence/Delia Matthews and Gittens/Iain Mackay as the young lovers all sparkled. As did all the fairies. Gorgeously played score with lovely singing by the girls of Brum Cathedral Choir.

 

Month in the Country is a wonderful piece too although took a bit for me to fully engage and feel involved. For me it just built gradually and gently to a powerful crescendo that was the duet between Samara Downs' Natalia and Jamie Bond as Beliayev. Piano playing of the Chopin superb, especially the Grand Polonnaise which always brings a tear to my eyes.

 

What a treat of a double bill and I'm going to see it again tonight with a different cast! Happy days indeed, what a superb double production.

Edited by nottsballetlover
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Talking about £10 ticket offers: when I got to Moor Street today I noticed outside the station an offer which is a £15 return Birmingham-London with Chiltern Trains (booking?) until 6th March.  I mention it in case there is a way of reversing it and making it useful for London-Brum as well, although I haven't checked the T&Cs.

 

Hmm, yes, here you are: http://www.chilternrailways.co.uk/just15  They seem to be valid for a month.  Wish I'd known before I shelled out more money!

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Hello all.  It was a real treat to see so many old Ballet.coers in Birmingham this afternoon after such a long time.  I won't dwell on The Dream which was very perky and had just too much of the Duracell Bunny about its performance for my tastes; but A Month in the Country was, for me, simply the best performance I have seen BRB give.  I find it quite extraordinary that it was only their second performance of the work.  I was told that Dowell was in tears at the end of the opening night, and if that cast even came close to this afternoon's then it is very special.  Samara Downs' beautifully nuanced Natalia showed, so intelligently, the inner narrative logic of this flawed character, and shaped Ashton's choreography through her lusciously bending back and arms; really showing how much the costume also feeds into the movement.  There were so many detailed moments I cannot list them all, but I particularly remember her facial expression as Rakitin approaches her from behind, she assumes it is Beliaev, turns and realises her mistake.  Beautiful.  Jamie Bond was young, ardent, gorgeous as Beliaev, and his opening soliloquy reminded me how differently (perhaps better?) Ashton wrote for Dowell here than Macmillan did for Dowell in the famous Manon soliloquy. Laura Day (new to me) was hugely impressive as Vera.  It's a while since I've seen the RB do this work, but BRB far surpassed my memories of those performances.  A very, very fine achievement for Brum!

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Ian, after seeing Delia Mathews this evening, I can

understand why Dowell would have been in tears.

She was simply magnificent. A rose approaching

full bloom. Everything she does these days is superb.

So looking forward to her Juliet

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Month this evening (Matthews/Mackay) was beyond words. It just flowed perfectly and swept me along and took me to another level of ballet wonderment. Just bravo to BRB and all concerned for putting this on so brilliantly. No surprise that Dowell was in tears. So was I. An exquisite work.

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Hello again.  Not wishing to hog this thread, but I do just want to make one further observation that "TwoPigeons" also has mentioned, which is regarding the size of the stage at the Hippo, versus the set (which I believe is a direct transfer from ROH).  I agree the stage is not large enough, and this was most apparent in Kolya's solo with the kite.  At ROH I seem to remember, though perhaps I am mistaken, that he circles the stage in ever increasing rotations, and that the last rotation is the one where he jumps over the chaise longue and out through the veranda.  At the Hippo he has no space but to jump over the chaise longue initially and continue to do so, and I felt the effect of that scene was lessened as a result (I also thought at the matinee he got the string caught a bit, so the kite didn't trail as much as it has done upon Kolya's exit into the garden, as in other performances) .   Interesting comparing sets and stage sizes with the recent RB revival of Two Pigeons, where the opposite was the case.  The ROH stage was far too large to accommodate the set and the RB performance suffered, I felt. 

 

As the owner of the ballet, Dowell has complete control over casting.  I think it is wonderful that Matthews and Downs have been given this opportunity and done so well.

Edited by IPalmer
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Ian, you currently have a total of 5 posts: there's no way anyone could accuse you of "hogging" any thread :)  Anyway, it was good to see you this afternoon after so long. 

 

Time constraints and other things mean I shall hold off commenting until I've been to all the performances in this run, but I do share your enthusiasm for Downs and Day (you must have missed her: she was the original Greta in Pita's The Metamorphosis, with Ed Watson), and was very moved by the whole thing.

 

Seriously, folks: the programme is on until Saturday.  With a special offer on tickets, and the Chiltern Railways £15 return for people living on or near that line, what's stopping you? :)

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Sadly, I couldn't make any of the shows (I wish I had!) - but I did make it to the Director's rehearsal before the run started. Here are some photos:

24487669244_a900742501_z.jpg
The Dream - Fairies
© Dave Morgan.
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

24822668700_bff637a328_z.jpg
The Dream - Joseph Caley, Nao Sakuma
© Dave Morgan.
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

25091926456_245d60ec65_z.jpg
A Month in the Country - Delia Matthews, Iain Mackay
© Dave Morgan.
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

See more...
Set from DanceTabs: BRB - Ashton double bill
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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That blonde wig doesn't seem to be doing Sukama any favours at all!  Are all the Titanias saddled with it?

 

I believe Antoinette Sibley, the original Titania, was fair haired in real life, so a light coloured wig wouldn't look out of place on her, but I don't think Shakespeare described Titania as blonde, did he?  Even if he did, wouldn't a long wig in the dancer's natural colouring look more appropriate?  Not to mention a lot more flattering.  

Edited by Fonty
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I find the wig unflattering on everyone, no matter what their own hair colour!  And don't get me started on the wigs in Month!

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Especially when you can see the dancer's real hair colour underneath :(

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